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USA Today reports that Smithfield Foods "is asking its hog suppliers to phase out the use of controversial stalls to raise pregnant sows." The move, the company said, "is in response to customers who are looking for the company's suppliers to move toward roomier group housing systems seen as more humane for the animals."

While the move is not mandatory, Smithfield has said that it is "less likely" that it will renew contracts with suppliers who do not make the change.

Animal rights groups hailed the decision, but David Warner, director of communications for the National Pork Producers Council, said that "contrary to what animal-rights groups claim, consumers are not asking for this and aren't willing to pay for it in the form of higher meat prices. And that means packers and retailers aren't willing to pay farmers to convert from stalls."

• The Associated Press reports that Kraft Foods is warning of a Velveeta cheese shortage that could affect availability during the NFL playoffs, a time that traditionally sees a spike in usage.

No reason has been given for the shortage other than "the nature of manufacturing." The company says that it has not heard from customers who are having trouble finding Velveeta on store shelves.

• The Seattle Times reports that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) "appears inclined to approve the so-called Arctic apple, designed by a small Canadian company. First, though, officials must confront some enduring public distaste for genetically modified foods."

The GM apple has been designed not to turn brown.

According to the story, "Organic growers … fear that honeybees will spread genetically engineered apple pollen and contaminate organic orchards. Some consumer advocates maintain a more general antipathy toward engineered foods, while industry groups that include the Northwest Horticultural Council in Yakima also object to what would be the first genetically engineered apple in commercial production."

• Jim Sinegal, the founder and former CEO of Costco Wholesale, will receive the National Retail Federation (NRF) Gold Medal Award, its highest honor, when the organization holds its annual convention in New York City next week.
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