Chipotle closed all of its 1,971 restaurants for four hours today so employees could attend a company-wide food safety meeting and learn what changes the company has implemented.

Though company executives tout this plan as unprecedented and vow to make Chipotle the safest place to eat, arrogance seems to remain an important ingredient in every burrito. For instance, the CDC said last week they had closed their investigation into Chipotle’s E. coli and norovirus outbreaks, and stated it was unable to determine a food or ingredient responsible for the contamination. But according to a Wall Street Journal story, Chipotle believes "the E. coli was most likely from contaminated Australian beef." It’s hypocritical Chipotle would throw Australian beef under the bus since it made such a fuss in 2014 over the fact it needed Australian beef because it couldn’t source enough “responsibly raised” American beef.

This latest PR blunder further underscores the company’s anti-science bias. That’s because, according to the Wall Street Journal report, while the CDC’s official conclusion was the outbreak source was unknown, many within the government agency believe “it likely stemmed from contaminated produce.”

 

California Snowpack

California State snow surveyor Frank Gehrke delivered some good news to Californians last week. Gehrke, chief of a multi-agency group that surveys the state's snowpack, measured more than 76 inches of snow at Phillips Station, with 24.5 inches of water content. That’s 130% of the February average since 1966. "It's premature to call the end of the drought," Gehrke said. "But it's a very good start."

Officials say the snowpack would have to grow to 150% to end the drought, an unlikely development.

 

Western Fire Policy Debate

Should ranchers be allowed to risk their lives to rescue livestock from wildfires? That debate took center stage in the Washington State legislature last week when Rep. Tom Dent, R-Moses Lake, introduced a bill that would free ranchers to venture onto burning public lands to retrieve or care for their animals.  

“Many times the rancher knows the country — knows the draws, knows the ravines — better than anyone else there, including law enforcement,” Dent said. “We need to allow them some latitude.” Taking the opposite position, James McMahan, policy director for the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, said, “The challenge with this bill is it allows access, regardless of the danger, and that not only puts the livestock owner in danger, but also the first-responders who will have to rescue them if something goes bad.”

 

Will TPP Rally cattle Markets?

Trade has been top of mind for beef producers this past year as export volumes dropped and cattle prices have fallen. A rally could be around the corner with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) being signed by 12 member countries, and the agreement might provide an opportunity to turn-around a sliding cattle markets. “When you look at the downward pressure we’ve had in the markets over the tail end of 2015 and now into 2016, we’re trying to find all the value we can,” says Colin Woodall, vice president of government relations with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA).