NATIONAL MEAT ASSOCIATION h 1970 Broadway, Suite 825, Oakland, CA 94612

(510) 763-1533 Fax (510) 763-6186 h Email Address: [email protected] h

Edited by Kiran Kernellu

February 10, 2003




George Gillett, Jr., Chairman of Booth Creek Management Corporation, will be the keynote speaker at NMA’s Annual Meeting on March 5, 2003 in Las Vegas, NV.  Booth Creek Management was formed to oversee the acquisitions and management of the Gillett family business. It has extensive holdings in recreation businesses, transportation, landscape and garden and the meat and poultry industry.  In 2002, ConAgra Foods sold control of its fresh beef, pork and lamb business to a group that includes Booth Creek Management and Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst. This group owns approximately 54% of Swift & Co., as the business entity is now known. 


Mr. Gillett has long been associated with interests in the meat industry. His investment in Swift & Company beef, pork and lamb took many by surprise. ConAgra’s CEO said at the time that the transaction “was an important step in sharpening ConAgra’s strategic focus while ensuring continued access to its principal supplier of top quality meat and pork products.”  Booth Creek also has interests in Petaluma Poultry, Snowball Foods, Kings Delight, B3R Country Meats, Coleman Natural Products and Gerhard’s Napa Valley Sausage.


Mr. Gillett attended Amherst College in Amherst, MA and graduated from Dominican College in Racine, WI.  He and his wife Rose have four sons and they make their home in Vail, Colorado.


Mr. Gillett has a vision! With a huge investment in a mature industry that has seen some major structural changes in the past several years, we have asked him to share with us his vision of pearls where others see only rocks.  Attendees will not be disappointed!



Dr. Elsa Murano, USDA’s Under Secretary for Food Safety, has sent us her regrets that the preparations for presenting this year’s food safety appropriations requests to the Congress do not allow her to join us in Las Vegas.  She is sending Dr. Merle D. Pierson, her deputy, to represent her and to speak to us on Monday, March 3, immediately after lunch at 12:30 p.m. 


Dr. Pierson is internationally recognized for his work with HACCP systems and research on the reduction and control of foodborne pathogens.  He served as professor of food microbiology and safety at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and also served as a member of the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods.  A native of South Dakota, he received his B.S. in Biochemistry from Iowa State University and his M.S. and Ph.D. in Food Science from the University of Illinois.







The Eight Circuit Court of Appeals has just announced that it will hear the beef checkoff case in Saint Paul, MN on Monday, March 10, 2003. The Sixth Circuit Court will hear the pork checkoff appeal in Cincinnati, OH on Friday, March 14. This will be a big week for the future of the two checkoffs. Decisions could be available within four to six months.


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NMA’s Board of Directors has a long tradition of hearing from the Administrator of the Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS) at its convention meeting.  NMA’s chairman of the Board Terry Caviness is pleased to welcome Dr. Garry McKee, who was appointed to this position last summer. 


Dr. McKee was appointed Director of the Wyoming Department of Health and Cabinet Secretary by Wyoming Governor Jim Geringer in February 1999.  He had previously served as Administrator of Wyoming’s Public Health Laboratory.  He received his B.S. in Biology from Southwestern Oklahoma State University, his M.A. in Environmental Science, his M.A. in Public Health and a Ph.D. in Microbiology from the University of Oklahoma.  In his position as FSIS Administrator, he has stressed the role of the agency’s public health mission.


All members and guests are invited to attend the Board meeting and hear Dr. McKee’s presentation.  The meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 4 at 3:15 p.m. 




In order to accommodate major speakers on the last day of NMA’s MEATXPO and Convention in Las Vegas in March, it has been necessary to rearrange the schedule.  All attendees should note that the round tables previously scheduled for Wednesday afternoon will now be held at 7:30 a.m. and will conclude by 8:45 a.m., allowing MEATXPO to open on time at 9 o’clock.  NMA’s Annual Meeting, which includes the business meeting and election of directors, will commence at 1:30 p.m.  Mr. Gillett will speak at approximately 2:15 p.m., and our friends attending the AMSA/NMA Science Conference are invited to attend, and proceed to their own meetings immediately thereafter.  NMA will present its scholarship awards at its Board of Directors meeting on Tuesday afternoon, rather than at the annual meeting this year.  All members are invited to attend. 




It’s hard to believe, but California State University, Fresno is sponsoring a conference this week on the topic of Revolutionary Environmentalism with the following radical speakers who advocate arson and violence. Some of these speakers have been convicted of such crimes themselves. Confirmed speakers include:


Paul Watson, co-founder of Greenpeace from which he was expelled in 1977 when his tactics got too violent.  Watson, under this own organizational creation, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, takes the law into his own hands by making death threats, sinking boats and destroying whaling stations. He admits to carrying firearms aboard his ship and his boats bear a skull and crossbones flag.  He is wanted by the Costa Rican government in connection with the crime of attempted murder.


Rodney Coronado is a long-time leader of the Animal Liberation Front, a criminal enterprise that the FBI classifies as America’s most dangerous domestic terrorism threat.  He was sentenced in 1995 to 57 months in federal prison for the 1992 arson of a Michigan State University research laboratory, and he has openly confessed to at least six other arsons, as part of “Operation Bite Back.”


Craig Rosebrauch was press officer with the Earth Liberation Front and is a self-styled green anarchist.  He recently wrote his masters thesis: Rethinking Nonviolence: Arguing for the Legitimacy of Armed Struggle.  In Congressional testimony a year ago on eco-terror issues, he invoked the Fifth Amendment over 50 times, refusing even to acknowledge his name or citizenship.


Gary Yourofsky is proponent of violence employed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).  He was hired by PETA as a humane education lecturer, with the express goal of putting him in front of college and school audiences, despite the fact that he has been arrested many times for animal rights crimes and was sentenced in 1999 to six months in a Canadian maximum-security prison for a felony raid on a fur farm. 




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As any one of 8,000 establishments could attest to, it’s difficult to understand the regulatory tools and enforcement processes used by USDA to measure compliance with its myriad rules and regulations.  In a separate item in this week’s newsletter, we have set forth the regulatory steps to the best of our understanding.  Understanding the regulatory system goes a long way to doing what it takes to be in compliance.


Unfortunately, Reuters reporter Randy Fabi got it wrong last week. He wrote, under the headline, Most Meat Plants Violate Food Safety Rules, that about 60% of the largest U.S. meat plants failed to meet federal food safety regulations for preventing the E. coli bacteria in their products, and named his source as USDA. 


He reportedly derived his misinformation from a briefing last Tuesday when Under Secretary Dr. Elsa Murano and FSIS Administrator Dr. Garry McKee briefed interested constituencies with an update about how the industry was meeting the 2002 Directive requiring them to reexamine (re-assess) their plans in light of evidence that E. coli O157:H7 was more prevalent in live animals than was previously thought. 


As part of the reassessment process, FSIS’s Consumer Safety Officers (CSO) are first visiting the 130 largest plants in the industry and examining their HACCP plans.  So far 35 plants have been reviewed, and in about 21 of the reviews, the CSOs have asked for further scientific documentation about preventing and eliminating food safety hazards. Dr. Murano and Dr. McKee reportedly restated in response to questions from reporters that the additional questions involved “scientific and design” issues related to HACCP plans. Unfortunately, that was not the message that the Reuters reporter gave, and his misinterpretation has been widely re-stated.  We encourage members who find the article in local papers to send it, and the one about regulatory tools, to Reuters and seek clarification.




Several members have brought to NMA’s attention their confusion over FSIS Notice 55-02 “Use of Microbial Pathogen Computer Modeling (MPCM) in HACCP Plans,” dated December 2, 2002.  MPCM is a computer-based software program that estimates the growth or decline of pathogens in food products based on intrinsic and extrinsic variable factors.  Unfortunately, members who have used, and continue to use, MPCM as supporting documentation to their HACCP plans or to evaluate critical control point (CCP) deviations, have been challenged by some FSIS inspection personnel who contend that the use of MPCM is not valid.


According to FSIS Notice 55-02, “MPCM programs can be used as predictive models to ascertain the effects of process deviations or as an analysis tool to assist in determining the relative severity of a deviation.”  Therefore, this Notice acknowledges that the MPCM may be used as a tool. However, with a few exceptions, FSIS will need supporting data to substantiate the findings of the MPCM values. “Determining pathogen growth or survival and controlling it in food products requires complete and thorough analysis by an independent microbiology laboratory, challenge studies, and surveys of literature.”  To these points, NMA has some scientific literature to substantiate findings of the MPCM or can put members in touch with a microbiology laboratory or a provider of challenge studies, if needed.


For example, Plant A has a stabilization deviation. The first step they should take after discovering the deviation and placing the suspect product “on hold” is to immediately contact NMA.  NMA will guide Plant A through the process of utilizing the MPCM and provide some of the necessary literature to substantiate the results.  For members who are interested in downloading the MCPM, it is available online at:


MPCM is a useful tool for predicting bacterial growth, identifying potential CCPs, reformulating products, determining product disposition, and providing graphical modeling tools.  Although FSIS only considers MPCM to be a predictive tool, MPCM certainly can indicate if certain conditions warrant further attention.


For further information, speak with Julie Ramsey at NMA.




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Lean Trimmings and Herd on the Hill are offered electronically. If you’d like to receive the newsletter via e-mail, please contact Kiran Kernellu at [email protected] or 510-763-1533. Receive the latest news every Monday afternoon in your Inbox instead of waiting for it in the mail!




NMA - East: 1400 - 16th St. N.W., Suite 400, Washington D.C. 20036 Ph. (202) 667-2108

NMA - West: 1970 Broadway, Suite 825, Oakland, CA 94612 Ph. (510) 763-1533 Fax (510) 763-6186

Edited by Kiran Kernellu

February 10, 2003




The USDA is responsible, under the Federal Meat Inspection Act and Poultry Products Inspection Act, of providing “continuous” inspection, including ante and post mortem inspection, to assure that meat and poultry is wholesome and not misbranded or adulterated.  That is the law.  Pursuant to the Pathogen Reduction HACCP rule of July 1996, USDA required companies to develop Standard Sanitation Operating Systems (SSOPs) and a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan for operations.  USDA officials monitor the activities in official establishments to confirm the effectiveness of SSOPs and HACCP plans, and have developed regulatory tools to carry out these responsibilities.


The first regulatory tool is the Non-Compliance Record (NR) issued by an Inspector in Charge or off-line Inspector, which identifies a specific non-compliance. It may be accompanied by a regulatory action to retain product if food safety or direct product contamination is at issue.  An NR describes the unacceptable condition. Plants may simply accept the NR and take corrective action, or may appeal the NR.  Plants are expected to indicate corrective action and what they will do to prevent reoccurrence in writing. 


After reviewing the SSOP or HACCP plans, inspectors could also issue what is called a 30-day reassessment letter.  A 30-day reassessment letter is not considered an enforcement action.  Rather, it is issued when there are unclear provisions or questions about the design of the plan that require clarification or resolution.  In the event the response to the 30-day reassessment letter is deemed inadequate, FSIS may issue a Notice of Intended Enforcement (NOIE).


The next regulatory tool is a NOIE.  A NOIE identifies repetitive non-compliance traced to the same root cause, and a failure by the company to prevent the reoccurrence.  Plants have 72 hours or 3 business days to respond to an NOIE.


If the response to the NOIE is unacceptable, the next regulatory step is a Notice of Suspension, which will be faxed or hand delivered to the plant officials identified on the grant of inspection, and unless there is an imminent food safety risk, a company is usually allowed to complete the shift before the suspension is effective.  Inspection is restored when the offending condition is corrected.  Also, if appropriate corrective action is taken immediately, then the suspension may be held in abeyance, usually for a designated period of time.


In addition to the above, FSIS inspectors have the authority to take immediate action to prevent adulterated or misbranded meat from leaving the plant with the application of a RETAIN tag, or to use this tag to prevent the use of unsanitary equipment or facilities.  They would also issue an NR after applying the tag. 


Plants have the right to appeal at every level by asking the next level of USDA to evaluate and reconsider.  The appeal system is lengthy and cumbersome, and often seen as a “rubber stamp” and ineffective. Also, plants may fear retaliation and prefer to stay “under the radar line.”  Thus, there are relatively few appeals of NRs. FSIS takes the position that retaliation is neither tolerated nor condoned.  There are special guidelines to be followed if a company makes such a charge, and NMA recommends that its members consult with it and/or counsel.


All regulatory and enforcement actions are recorded and included in the Quarterly Report issued by FSIS and are available on USDA’s website at The most current one available is April-June 2002.


Remember, the fundamental goal of industry, and USDA through its regulatory role, is to ensure the production of food that is safe and wholesome. 


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One of the key issues NMA is tackling in Washington is working with a coalition of other groups to oppose USDA’s User Fee initiative.  Next week the coalition will be visiting the offices of members of Congress to go on the record against user fees as they are presented in the FY 2004 USDA budget submission to Congress.  User fees, which could more accurately be termed a “regulatory tax,” have been denounced not only by industry groups but also by consumer groups and ignored multiple times by Congress. 


The visits to members’ offices serve the twofold purpose of presenting NMA’s view on this rehashed issue as well as provide an opportunity to meet with new members of the key committees.  The new faces on the Senate Agriculture Committee are Senators:  Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Norm Coleman (R-MN), Mike Crapo (R-ID), James Talent (R-MO), Elizabeth Dole (R-NC), and Charles Grassley (R-IA).  The new members of the House Agriculture Committee are Representatives: Adam Putnam (R-FL), Bill Janklow (R-SD), Max Burns (R-GA), Jo Bonner (R-AL), Mike Rogers (R-AL), Steve King (R-IA), Chris Chocola (R-IN), Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO), Devin Nunes (R-CA), Frank Balance Jr. (D-NC), Dennis Cardoza (D-CA), Ed Case (D-HI), Jim Marshall (D-GA), Rodney Alexander (D-LA), David Scott (D-GA). 


If any NMA members are located in or have facilities in one of these districts it would be helpful if you would e-mail Shawna Thomas at [email protected] with information.  It adds a personal touch in visiting new members offices if we can provide the name of a company and its principals, some key information about the products, and the number of people employed in the community.




A comprehensive 2003 Nebraska Swine Report, developed by the staff in Animal Science and cooperating departments for use in extension, teaching and research, has just been made available to individuals interested in pigs by Duane E. Reese, Extension Swine Specialist and lead coordinator from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE.  It includes information in four categories:  Nutrition, Housing, Industry Issues, and Meats.  In the latter category, it includes four papers of interest to meat processors:  Case Ready and Enhanced Pork – How do Ingredients Make them Work?; Fresh vs. Frozen Bellies for Bacon; Fatty Acid Composition of Fresh Pork Bellies – Implications to Bacon Production; and Effect of Post-Cooking Holding Time on Consumer Taste Panel Ratings of Enhanced Pork Loins.  SiouxPreme Packing Co. and Tyson-IBP, both members of NMA, are acknowledged for their support.  The web site is located at Questions may be addressed to Duane Reese at (Tel.) 402-472-6425, (Fax) 402-472-6362, (e-mail) [email protected].




Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) introduced S. 325 last week to amend the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946.  Senator Grassley’s objective is “to increase competition and transparency among packers that purchase livestock from producers.”  However, the bill is but the latest government effort to manage the market through arbitrary restrictions.  Specifically, it would require 25% of a packer’s daily kill to come from the spot market.  In what would be a fine example of government forcing the tail to wag the dog, the new restriction is intended to improve unreliable Mandatory Price Reporting data.  Amazingly, Senator Grassley says that enactment of his legislation would guarantee independent livestock producers market access and fair prices.


In our estimation, arbitrary government controls that seriously undermine market flexibility will not cure producer price problems.  Strong market demand and healthy packer competition are the only reasonable routes to the destination that we all desire.  Senator Grassley’s latest scheme would create market chaos, a gross disservice to all constituencies. 




FSIS will hold a pubic meeting on February 26, 2003 to discuss its draft risk assessment on Listeria in deli- and hot dog-type meat and poultry products that are exposed to the environment post-lethality. The meeting will take place from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Washington Plaza Hotel in Washington, D.C. Contact Moshe Dreyfuss, FSIS Planning Staff at (202) 205-0260 for more information.


Access the Federal Register notice, which announced the availability and requested comments on the FSIS draft risk assessment, and includes a draft agenda for the public meeting at: