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 Jeremy Russell

May 6, 2002




USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service has pulled together an elite group of scientific experts to meet at Georgetown’s University Conference Center in Washington, DC today through Tuesday on the topic of pathogen reduction. This scientific conference will cover everything from administrative issues to moderated discussion panels on HACCP, Performance Standards and Microbial Intervention Strategies. Panelists include representatives from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, FDA, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, as well as academics such as Gary Acuff of Texas A&M University. Opportunities for public comment will be offered and all comments and official transcripts will be made available by the Agency. NMA Executive Director Rosemary Mucklow will be in attendance throughout this important scientific oversight event.




The Livestock & Seed Division of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service held its annual Vendor Conference in Kansas City last week. The ever-increasing number of attendees was over 100. Pre-meetings introduced the electronic bid submission process and specific requirements for further processors who convert commodity products into ready-to-serve items for school consumption. NMA has long encouraged its members to participate in the commodity program, which provides special opportunities for small meat businesses. The annual vendor conference is the best place to learn more about the program.


NMA Member Palo Duro Meat Co. received the 2002 Industry Award “in recognition of outstanding performance and commitment in the production and delivery of quality meat products for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Commodity Purchase Program.” Palo Duro was the vendor that provided the most product during the year, and excelled by being on time with no rejections. Trevor Caviness accepted the award on behalf of the company. Also, Cherry Meats won the Outreach Effort Award for the continued support of the 8(a) program and “increasing small minority owned business participation” in the Program.


AMS staff discussed all elements of program participation and provided hand-out materials to support their presentations. They included: basic procurement activities, the role of standardization on specifications, the AMS laboratory testing program, and the audit, review and compliance component. After lunch, the role of sister agencies in commodity procurement, Farm Services Agency and Food & Nutrition Service, were reviewed, and J.R. Green, President of the American Commodity Distribution Association, spoke to the attendees.


One important hand-out of interest is the summary of purchases by vendor. NMA is pleased to provide copies of hand-out information. Interested members should e-mail NMA Executive Director Rosemary Mucklow at [email protected]. NMA held its customary get-acquainted reception the evening preceding the meeting and appreciates the sponsorship of DCS Sanitation that makes this possible.




NMA spent a pleasant afternoon in its headquarters in Oakland, California meeting with representatives from the Mongolian Meat Processors Association last Friday.  The group was touring U.S. plants and meeting with representatives of the American meat industry as part of a U.S. government grant. Rick Stier of Consulting Food Scientists arranged the visit.


Page 2




The House approved the Farm Bill last week, but the Senate delayed to this week their own vote on what is widely regarded as an unwieldy and contentious bevy of subsidies. The Wall Street Journal said that full approval of the bill will cap “a long retreat from the free-market policies championed by Republicans when they took over the [House] chamber in the mid-1990s.” As NMA reported last week, the final Farm Bill includes Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL), but does not include a ban on packer ownership of livestock.


Several foreign countries have taken umbrage with the bill. Brazil has promised to fight U.S. subsidy payments through an appeal to the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the European Union, Canada and Australia are similarly inclined. Brazilian officials have not said when they will file, but Brazil’s ambassador to the States said his government has definitely decided to pursue a WTO case.


President Bush has said he is “pleased” with the bill, but other members of his party are far from it. The Wall Street Journal reports that some younger conservatives have even questioned whether the party is loosing its focus.




South Korea announced the abrupt slaughter of about 10,000 pigs after animals were diagnosed with Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD). The country has stopped issuing certificates to allow the export of all hoofed animals. Officials hope to eradicate the virulent livestock disease prior to commencement of the World Cup soccer finals in Seoul on May 31.


The Korean Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry said the disease began on a pig farm 60 miles south of Seoul, but was almost detected at another farm 20 miles further south.  At the same time, the ministry confirmed that a cow at a farm closer to Seoul also showed signs of the disease. Korea was hit by FMD only two years ago. At that time more than 2,000 animals had to be killed.






Rocky Mountain Natural Meats

Denver, CO


LamPost Meats

Des Moines, IA


Everest Meats

Downy, CA



Dean’s Services

San Francisco, CA



Ann Hollingsworth

(Better Built Foods)

Carrollton, GA


Precision Machine Controls

N. Jackson, OH


AWS Engineering

Logan, UT


Page 3




With the recent report of a British citizen contracting vCJD, the human equivalent of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), while in the U.S., the fear of mad cow disease has been brought one step closer to U.S. consumers. Although BSE is not the threat it was once predicted to become – the number of people in Britain, where the disease was epidemic in cattle, have not significantly surpassed the 100 mark, and the latest report from France adds only a sixth victim to that country’s list – it is still a terrifying and incurably fatal illness that has been shown to devastate a nation’s cattle herd. The April 1 Federal Register notice by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) that the Czech Republic be added to the list of regions where BSE has been detected in native-born animals shows that this world disease wave has yet to run its course. Events in Japan, where government officials have been humiliated and Enron-like corporate corruption uncovered as a result of a BSE outbreak, even more spectacularly exhibit what the costs of failure can be.


The outbreak of BSE in Japan last September devastated consumer confidence in beef, sent shares of food companies tumbling, hit the restaurant business and shattered faith in government food standards. In an attempt to spread calm, Japan began testing all cattle due to be processed into food, a costly move that exceeded even Britain’s strict measures. The result was a report that placed blame squarely on government officials. Farm Minister Tsutomu Takabe managed to resist a forced retirement, instead saying he would voluntarily return six months’ pay to acknowledge responsibility, Reuters reported April 2.


With such dramatic examples as Britain and Japan, it should not be surprising that countries have made monumental and sometimes overly-cautious efforts to stop BSE. China, for example, seized 177 items of cosmetics from Japan and Europe on April 7 as the beginning of a crackdown on products banned in March. 18 countries have been required by China to prove their products are free from ingredients extracted from cow and sheep offal and tissue. The European Union was a bit bemused by the move, since its strict standards on specified BSE risk materials extends to all cosmetic products it produces. Nevertheless, China’s ban is a potent reminder of the lengths that some nations will go to protect their borders from animal diseases.


What is worrying is that despite such showy moves, that may or may not have any consequential benefit, challenges remain in the more mundane preventions worldwide. The Associated Press reported that beef imported to Britain on April 3 was found to be contaminated with spinal cord. The spinal cord should have been removed when the meat was initially processed in Spain. Similarly, there was concern in the U.S. in February about the apparent importation of banned beef products. And a much more minor, but nonetheless troubling, infraction occurred in March when Tyson Foods was told by the FDA that one of its rendering plants violated rules meant to prevent the spread of BSE should it ever arrive on our shores. The letter suggests that FDA is getting more aggressive about the enforcement of its preventive measures and a recent scientific survey by a Harvard risk assessment team said that if BSE had ever entered this country our preventions would be adequate to either completely block or quickly eliminate the disease. Still, at a time when such lapses receive major press attention, as this did in the Wall Street Journal, they can be highly disturbing to an industry working to make its image match the reality of safety and assurance to which it not only aspires but more often than not achieves.


Consider how such news reports can affect trust-building efforts like those of the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) in Japan. USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng was in Japan recently kicking off a new media blitz to stress the safety of imported U.S. beef. To spark demand, USMEF will continue its Aisareru Beef (“desired beef”) campaign through September. “When you ingest a product, it’s much different than buying a car or clothes,” Seng told the Japanese newspaper Asahi. “It’s a different kind of trust.” Building trust is not only a delicate process, but an industry-wide effort.


That goes for the meat industry worldwide, as well. In Britain, where the situation was the worst, the Guardian News Service last month noticed a sharp increase in “meat reducers” – people who want to cut down on meat consumption because they feel it is healthier to substitute fruit and vegetables, or who are worried about the quality of meat. These are not ideological vegetarians. 46% of the British population are now meat reducers, according to Haldane Foods’ annual Realeat survey. And the key motive for this is seen to be animal health scares.


Page 4




Cargill Inc. and Hormel Foods Corporation announced a joint venture to sell beef and pork under Hormel’s Always Tender brand, creating a major competitor to IBP’s Thomas E. Wilson brand. The venture, Precept Foods LLC, will help Cargill increase sales of branded meat products while allowing Hormel to expand its Always Tender offerings into beef, without the expense of constructing or buying new processing plants.


Tyson Foods, owner of IBP, announced high second quarter profits last week. The company said that increases were due in part to the purchase of IBP. The added revenue from the IBP operations saw second quarter sales jump to $5.84 billion from $1.86 billion last year. Hormel Foods meanwhile posted an earnings shortfall.


The brands will be competing in a market that appears primed to accept what they have to offer – fully-cooked, quick and easy to prepare. According to a survey done for Thomas E. Wilson that hit more than 900 home cooks, 68% of respondents agree that speed and convenience are important or very important when it comes to dinner preparation. Furthermore, although 30% of those surveyed claim to serve meat often with weeknight meals, most don’t consider it a convenience food … yet.




USDA released the names of the first accredited entities who will be  certifying organic production and handling operations to comply with National Organic Program (NOP). All agricultural products labeled organic must originate from farms or handling operations certified by a state or private agency accredited by USDA. The entities that have been accredited must complete a successful site audit, or meet other specified conditions within 120 days.  Farms and handling operations that sell less than $5,000 worth per year of organic agricultural products are exempt from certification. Check the NOP website at details.



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 Jeremy Russell

May 6, 2002




Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) chaired a hearing April 30 of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Efficiency, Financial Management, and Intergovernmental Relations, held in conjunction with the Senate Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, Restructuring, and the District of Columbia, to review the safety of meals served in the National School Lunch Program. Durbin criticized the current structure of federal food safety agencies.  The current food safety system consists of 12 different federal agencies, 35 different laws, and 26 Congressional subcommittees and full committees, he said, putting at risk the health of 27 million school children who receive school meals each day. Referring to an incident allegedly caused by burritos, Senator Durbin questioned the use of one agency to examine the meat in a burrito and one to examine the flour used to make the tortilla and called for a single food agency.


John Bode, representing the National Food Processors Association (NFPA) noted the differences between food safety agencies are due to differences in the underlying statutes not the agencies themselves. Merging food safety responsibilities into a single agency would not change the systems or cultures in place, Mr. Bode predicted. Agency reorganization often leads to a significant loss of productivity according to Mr. Bode.


There was then testimony from FDA and USDA. Under Secretary for Food Safety, Dr. Elsa Murano, testifying on behalf of Secretary Veneman, stated that “[for purchases of meat, poultry, and egg products] AMS builds on the basic food safety protections provided by FSIS in several ways. First, AMS requires the presence of AMS graders during the production or processing of items to be purchased by USDA. By having an AMS employee in the plant during production, added assurance is provided that all contract provisions are met. AMS has the authority to retain product produced at any plant for any suspected defective production or product condition, until further review by FSIS is conducted. Second, AMS includes prescriptive terms in its contracts regarding the handling of its products. For example, timing and temperature requirements for the freezing of product, temperature requirements for cooked products, and packaging requirements are fully described and monitored. Third, for potentially higher risk products, AMS specifications stipulate that samples of finished product can be taken for microbiological analysis, including testing for E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella.” Accompanying Dr. Murano were Eric Bost, Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services; Barry Carpenter, Deputy Administrator for Livestock and Seed, Agricultural Marketing Service; and Cathy Johnson, Farm Service Agency. Dr. Murano’s testimony is online at


Despite such reassurance, Senator Durbin announced that he intends to introduce legislation that would change the oversight of the federal school lunch program and give agencies direct recall authority over food served in schools. The legislation would require USDA to ensure that schools be able to know the identity of food producers and other suppliers that their distributors use. Voluntary guidelines to protect the food supply from bioterrorism would also be required.


Page 2




USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is proposing to amend, both for cooperative programs and extraordinary emergencies, the regulations pertaining to the control and eradication of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) and other serious diseases. Specifically, it is proposing changes in indemnity provisions primarily related to FMD. The proposed changes are prompted, in part, by a review of the regulations in light of the recent series of outbreaks of FMD in the United Kingdom and elsewhere around the world. The changes would expand the animals eligible for indemnification and make other technical changes that APHIS believes are necessary to ensure the success of a control and eradication program in the event of an occurrence of FMD in the United States. All comments postmarked, delivered, or e-mailed by July 1 will be considered.


NEW Listeria TEST


FSIS announced April 30 that it had adopted the BAX system to screen meat and poultry samples for Listeria monocytogenes. The Agency says the new test reduces the reporting time by one day without compromising effectiveness. Also, with BAX, fewer samples falsely
screen as positive. There were three recalls due to contamination with Listeria monocytogenes last month and eleven so far this year.




Tyson Foods was hit with another lawsuit very similar to one already lodged against it, but this time directed towards its newly acquired beef division, IBP. The suit alleges that IBP aggressively engaged in an effort to reduce labor costs by driving down employee wages through the systematic exploitation of illegal workers, reported Feedstuffs on April 29. IBP spokesman Gary Mickelson called the accusations unfair and “grossly inaccurate.” IBP has worked closely with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to assure that its workers are properly documented. Those workers suing IBP are represented by the same legal counsel as those suing Tyson’s poultry division.




The Codex Alimentarius Commission ad hoc Intergovernmental Task Force on Animal Feeding will be meeting June 4 to receive public comment on agenda items for the upcoming session in Copenhagen. Documents will be accessible online at




USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is accepting applications from state, regional, and national lamb producer, seedstock producer, feeder, and first handler organizations or associations which desire to be certified as eligible to nominate lamb producers, seedstock producers, lamb feeders, or first handlers of lamb or lamb products for appointment to the Lamb Promotion, Research, and Information Board. To nominate a producer, seedstock producer, feeder, or first handler member to the Board, organizations must first be certified by USDA. Applications for certification must be received by close of business May 31.




USDA announced April 29 that its Meat and Poultry Hotline will now answer food safety questions in Spanish. The toll-free Hotline can be reached at (800) 535-4555.