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

September 8, 2003




NMA’s Executive Director Rosemary Mucklow and some others on the NMA staff had the privilege of visiting several of NMA’s members in the last several weeks.  We’re planning to do more of this!  Some impressions!


Improved business security has been an easier hurdle for the meat industry by contrast with the open door policy of many American businesses.  The meat industry has been trained to establish better property and personnel management by adversaries that pre-date 9-11.  Some of these controls include round-the-clock access, egress security, pre-employment screening and reference checks.  It often includes signing in and out, and signing a confidentiality agreement. Security was very tight, and as visitors we had to take several steps before we were even allowed in the plant. We also had to sign a confidentiality agreement. It was very clear that we were visitors from our visitor nametags to the different color helmets we had to wear. Further, we were never unescorted during the tour.


A fully integrated industry.  Whereas twenty years ago, there were few to no female workers on kill and fabricating floors, with today’s technological innovations, much of the “heavy lifting” work is done automatically. This leaves the true skill of butchering in the hands of men and women on the line, side-by-side, with the knife!  The knives used by the employees are kept extremely sharp. Rarely is strength needed to butcher the animal; therefore both men and women are equal in that respect.


Bar coding trace systems were in their infancy twenty years ago; today, they help keep track of product flow and are really valuable when there is a need to trace back.  Systems are still being perfected, but the industry has come a long way. 


Production floor employees are receiving more training before they ever go to work handling the food that people will eat.  There are hugely better separations between the early stages of sanitary dressing, and the sequential segments where the meat gets closer and closer to the food that people will eat. 


At least at the operating level at the plants we visited, there was a more apparent cooperative spirit between companies and the assigned government employees.  The notion of partnership in making food safe was suggested by one of the USDA employees we spoke with. 


We should most certainly honor and respect the challenges overcome by earlier generations, but today’s men and women in top and middle management positions can take pride in their accomplishments to improve the quality and safety of finished products.  Hats off to the principals in these businesses who have recognized that profitability and success goes hand-in-hand with productivity and a good workplace environment.  The member plants we visited had excellent workplace environments. Middle and upper management closely guard the welfare of their employees. For example, the QA director always made sure everyone had earplugs in because he did not want anyone to become deaf in 10 years! That particular plant is a family-owned operation that has increased in size over the years. Everyone knows each other and they’re always happy to lend a hand to one another.


NMA staff members are deeply appreciative of the opportunity to visit our member companies. We extend our thanks to the companies that we visited, and to the employees who took the time to educate us about their operations. We believe these opportunities allow us to serve our members better.


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Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman announced last Wednesday that USDA is awarding 34 competitive grants totaling more than $6.4 million to strengthen efforts aimed at serving minority and disadvantaged farmers. A socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher is one of a group whose members have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice without regard to their individual qualities.


Veneman said in a press release that USDA is working to improve services to minority and socially disadvantaged farmers including creating USDA’s Office of Minority and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers Assistance (MSDA), established almost a year ago to work with minority and socially disadvantaged farmers who have concerns and questions about loan applications.  “We are committed to helping the nation’s minority and disadvantaged farmers,” said Veneman in a press release. “The grants will help many farmers and ranchers to successfully acquire, own, operate and retain farms and ranches by delivering a wide range of outreach and assistance activities including farm management, financial management and marketing.”




FSIS will hold a public meeting on pre-harvest food safety issues and E. coli O157:H7 on September 9, 2003 at the Washington Plaza Hotel, 10 Thomas Circle, NW, Washington, D.C. from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The meeting will consist of presentations on the research and practical experiences aimed at reducing E. coli O157:H7 at the livestock production level. NMA’s Executive Director, Rosemary Mucklow, will attend the meeting.


Contact Dr. Nathan Bauer at (979) 260-9562 for more information.  No pre-registration is required for this meeting. The agenda is available at: 




Cattle Buyers Weekly reported today that Canada is considering a Japanese request to test all cattle whose meat will be exported to Japan. Reportedly, Japanese Agriculture Minister Yoshiyuki Kamei suggested this option last Tuesday as a mean’s to lift Japan’s ban on Canadian beef exports.




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 reports news items that are of special interest to its readers, and provides information that they may want to be able to access.  Below are links to the Federal Register, AMS, APHIS, and FSIS, respectively:




NMA’s resource, “The Role of Microbiological Testing in Beef Safety Systems,” which was offered in the May 27, 2003 Lean Trimmings, has been revised and is now available for dissemination. NMA members who would like a copy of the resource should contact Julie Ramsey at 510-763-1533 or [email protected].




An attendee at NMA's Summer Conference lost a standard 8” x 10” college spiral-bound notebook, possibly with a red cover, with lots of unintelligible notes and pieces of paper inside.  Reward promised.  Please contact Kiran Kernellu at 510-763-1533 or [email protected] if found.




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FSIS is holding five workshops to explain its new rule, “Control of Listeria monocytogenes in Ready-to-Eat Meat and Poultry Products,” to owners and operators of small and very small inspected establishments. They will be held at the following locations:


September 13

Hilton North Raleigh

3415 Wake Forest Road

Raleigh, NC

(919) 872-2323

Bridgeport Holiday Inn

1070 Main Street

Bridgeport, CT

(203) 334-1234

September 20

Hilton Kansas City Airport

8801 N.W. 112th Street

Kansas City, KS

(816) 801-4011


October 4

Oakland, CA

Albuquerque, NM


Meeting sites for the remaining cities will soon be announced. Attendees should register in advance by contacting Sheila Johnson at 202-690-6498 or [email protected]. Because of limited space, preference will be given to representatives of federal and state small and very small meat and poultry establishments.




Last Thursday U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet dismissed the amended complaint against Mc Donald’s Corp. from two New York teens claiming the fast-food chain is accountable for their obesity-related health problems, and that it deceived consumers about the health risks of its products. Judge Sweet stated in his ruling that the plaintiffs didn’t allege how they’d been injured by McDonald’s food. He wrote, “McDonald’s does not have sufficient information to determine if its foods are the cause of plaintiffs’ obesity, or … only a contributing factor.” He further wrote, “The plaintiffs have made no explicit allegations that they witnessed any particular deceptive advertisements.”


Lisa Howard, a McDonald’s spokeswoman, said, “We trusted that common sense would prevail in this case, and it did,” according to a Chicago-Sun Times report last Friday.


In January, Sweet dismissed the original suit, which reportedly sought billions of dollars in damages on behalf of children throughout New York State, and alleged that McDonald’s contributed to childhood obesity.  In the original dismissal, Sweet said they might have a case if they alleged that McDonald’s food products had been “so altered that their unhealthy attributes are now outside the ken of the average reasonable consumer.” See the February 24 and January 27, 2003 newsletters for more on this topic.




Cooperatives Working Together (CWT), a farmer-led and farmer-funded organization within the National Milk Producers Federation, is currently sponsoring a program to provide an incentive for dairy farmers to retire their herds by moving them to slaughter. CWT will require that all cows in the selected herds be tagged with sequentially numbered pink ear tags, and it requests that slaughter plants receiving pink CWT tagged animals remove and collect the CWT designated ear tags and forward them to CWT’s office at 2101 Wilson Blvd, Suite 400, Arlington, VA 22201. 


CWT’s program will involve approximately 36,000 dairy cows. CWT tagged animals are expected to come to slaughter during the period from September 20, 2003 through October 30, 2003. CWT will reimburse packers for the cost of shipping the ear tags. For details regarding shipping and reimbursement, packers should contact Mr. Walt Wosje, CWT’s Chief Operating Officer, at 703-294-4353.



September 18-20, 2003 - Basic HACCP -- San Francisco, CA

October 1-2, 2003 - Beyond Basics (HACCP) -- College Station, TX

October 23, 2003 – SSOP and SPS (HACCP) – San Francisco, CA***

November 5, 2003 – Listeria Workshop – Ontario, CA ***


April 3-5, 2004 - Basic HACCP – Los Angeles, CA

April 21-23, 2004 – HACCP in Spanish – Los Angeles, CA

September 18-20, 2004 - Basic HACCP – San Francisco, CA

Contact NMA at (510) 763-1533 for more information and registration materials.

*** Location subject to change

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JAPAN'S 2001 BSE OUTBREAK LINKED TO CONTAMINATED FEED recently reported that Japan’s 2001 outbreak of BSE was probably caused by contamination during the feed production process, according to a Japanese agriculture ministry draft report. The draft reportedly said that prions, the abnormal proteins that are suspected of transmitting BSE, were at some point mixed into meat-and-bone meal feed at five processing centers around the country. The meal wasn’t used in the production of cattle feed, but it was an ingredient in chicken and pig feed at those plants, leading to the possibility that machinery had not been cleaned properly between runs, according to the ministry’s report. Reportedly, the panel investigating the outbreak wasn’t able to confirm where the tainted meal originated. The final report is due next month.




Cattle Buyers Weekly reported that the Beef Export Verification (BEV) program permits issued late August will have to be reissued because of a change in wording in the agreement between USDA and CFIA. Further, it hasn’t been determined whether beef trimmed from the vertebral column already boned out of the carcass is eligible to be exported as beef trimmings. If it isn’t eligible, an advanced meat recovery system can be employed to trim the vertebral column, as AMR meat isn’t eligible.




California legislators are prepared to propose an overhaul of California’s workers’ compensation system. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the legislators’ plan is to stabilize, or even roll back, insurance rates and to save billions of dollars by standardizing medical charges and limiting visits to health care facilities. Co-Chairman of the Joint Committee of Legislators, State Sen. Richard Alarcon (D-San Fernando Valley), said he hopes the reforms will cancel a 12% increase in premiums scheduled for 2004 and perhaps roll back an 8% increase implemented this year. California firms should continue to voice concerns for immediate reforms to elected officials.




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

September 8, 2003




The Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet) released its FoodNet Surveillance Report for 2001.This final report is used to document the effectiveness of new food safety control measures in decreasing the number of cases of fooodborne diseases that occur in the U.S. each year. Following are key findings as disclosed in the Executive Summary:


·   “There has been a sustained decline in the incidence of Yersinia, Listeria, Campylobacter, and Salmonella typhimurium over the past six years. These declines indicate important progress toward achieving the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Healthy People 2010 objectives of reducing the incidence of several foodborne diseases by the end of the decade. However, additional measures will be needed to further reduce the incidence of these diseases to achieve our national health objectives by 2010.


·   “The decline in the incidence of infections cause by Yersinia, Listeria, Campylobacter, and Salmonella typhimurium are unlikely to be due to surveillance artifacts. FoodNet conducts several studies to monitor the surveillance factors that can influence the incidence of these laboratory-diagnosed foodborne diseases. These factors include the frequency with which persons with gastrointestinal symptoms seek medical care, the frequency with which diagnostic stool specimens are submitted to clinical laboratories, and the frequency with which the laboratories routinely test stool specimens for various pathogens. We are unaware of any changes in these factors that might explain the magnitude of the declines observed in the reported foodborne infections.


·   “Food animals are major sources of Yersinia, Listeria, Campylobacter, and Salmonella typhimurium. One contributing factor to the decline in foodborne infections caused by these pathogens is likely to be change in the industry and regulatory approach to meat and poultry safety. Beginning in 1997, the USDA-FSIS began implementing the Pathogen Reduction/Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (PR/HACCP) systems regulations in the meat and poultry slaughter and processing plants. Additional evidence of the contribution of the USDA regulations to the decline in the incidence of Salmonella infections in humans described in this report is the decline in prevalence of Salmonella isolated from FSIS-regulated meat and poultry products.


·   “Enhanced surveillance and outbreak investigations have identified new control measures and focused industry attention on foodborne illness, so that control measures are more likely to be implemented. Recent interventions include egg safety programs for the prevention of Salmonella enteritidis infections, increased attention to fresh produce safety through better agricultural practices on farms and [in] food processing, regulation of fruit and vegetable juice, industry efforts to reduce food contamination, food safety education, and increased regulation of imported food.


·   “Although there have been important declines in the incidence of infection for several foodborne diseases, the incidence of foodborne diseases remains high. Efforts to reduce the rate of foodborne diseases might include steps to reduce the prevalence of these pathogens in their respective important animal reservoirs; e.g., cattle (Escherichia coli O157), egg-laying chickens (Salmonella enteritidis), and seafood, particularly oysters (Vibrio). Implementation of nationwide, consistent, on-farm preventive controls would reduce the risk of human illness from Salmonella enteritidis-contaminated eggs.


·   “The lack of a sustained decline in E. coli O157 infections indicates a need for increased efforts to reduce the burdens of these infections. Preventing E. coli O157 will not be a simple task because it is transmitted through food, water, person-to-person contact, and direct animal exposure. FoodNet studies and recent outbreaks have shown that an important route of transmission is direct contact with cattle or their environment. Strategies that reduce E. coli O157 on farms could decrease direct contact infection and food contamination, as well as entry into the water supply.


·   “The high incidence of foodborne diseases in infants and young children is a major concern. FoodNet studies have shown that breast-feeding of infants is important in preventing foodborne disease in infants. To determine other opportunities for prevention of foodborne diseases among children, FoodNet began a case-control study in 2002 of sporadic cases of Salmonella and Campylobacter among young children.


·   “The increase in the incidence of infections caused by Salmonella newport represents an emerging challenge to public health. Many of these isolates are resistant to nine or more antimicrobial agents, including all agents approved for oral use in children. Further studies are necessary to understand and resolve these problems. FoodNet recently began a case-control study of sporadic cases of Salmonella newport to assess possible risk factors and opportunities for prevention.”


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Recent press reports relayed that a 20,000-pound shipment of Canadian veal was sent to the U.S. last Thursday, the first Canadian beef to cross the border since the detection of BSE in a single Canadian cow late in May. Cambridge, Ontario veal processor Delft Blue Co. reportedly sent a truckload of veal from animals raised in eastern Canada across the U.S. border to a customer in Philadelphia, PA. The beef successfully passed through U.S. Customs, but officials at a USDA checkpoint were still processing the shipment Thursday night. Cattle Buyers Weekly reported today that the company shipped 44,000 pounds of veal from U.S.-born and Canadian-raised calves to its plant in Utica, NY for sale in the U.S. NMA has learned that more shipments were received today, and it looks like the resumption of nearer to normal trade levels will soon be achieved.


Officials with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) were cited as saying last Thursday that they had reached an agreement in principle with the USDA on a cattle segregation system for Canada’s meat packing plants that should allow boneless beef cuts to begin crossing the border in a few days. The Edmonton Journal reported last Friday that the Canadians struck a deal with the U.S. on the use of slaughterhouses that will allow shipments of Canadian beef south of the border. The U.S. reportedly demanded that Canada use separate slaughterhouses for older and younger cattle before the border would be re-opened to Canadian beef. However, officials reportedly have now reached an agreement in principle which allows Canada to slaughter animals under 30 months of age in the same facilities as older animals.


A USDA official confirmed the two countries reached an agreement Thursday morning on a new segregation system, according to the Journal report. Ted Haney, president of the Canada Beef Export Federation, said in the report that a system of “sequencing, segregation and separate use of equipment” has addressed the concerns about mixing older and younger animals. Haney also said there will be two sets of equipment, one for older animals and another for younger ones. In the early part of the day, young animals will be processed, and animals over 30 months of age will be handled later in the day. “The same line itself is used,” Haney said in the report. But “at the end of the day, a complete sanitation of the entire line would be completed, ensuring that at the start of the next day, there’s no residue.” Cattle Buyers Weekly reported today that CFIA and Canadian packers are awaiting a written agreement on the segregation plan.




NMA has available a new resource document, “Good Manufacturing Guidelines for the Removal of Spinal Cord During Slaughter Operations and Sampling and Testing of Advanced Meat Recovery Product for Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein Analysis.” The resource will soon be posted on NMA’s website. NMA members may contact Kiran Kernellu at 510-763-1533 or [email protected] for a copy of the GMPs.


It is recommended that this document be used in conjunction with the Guidelines for Developing Best Practices for Beef Slaughter announced in last week’s Lean Trimmings. (See item below.)




NMA announced last week in Herd on the Hill that it has developed, in conjunction with SMA, AMI and NCBA, as well leading representatives of beef slaughtering companies, Guidelines for Developing Best Practices for Beef Slaughter. NMA members contact Kiran Kernellu at 510-763-1533 or [email protected], or Ken Mastracchio at [email protected], for a copy of the Best Practices. The Best Practices will soon be posted to NMA’s website.




Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) is going to be a hotly debated issue in the upcoming agriculture appropriations process for Fiscal Year 2004.  It is important that our members make their opinions about COOL known to their representatives in Congress.  We are challenging our many members to draft letters to their Senators to show their dissatisfaction with the current COOL law and their desire to have this unworkable law repealed.  While the association can provide a constant voice to the powers that be in Washington D.C., it is the individual’s voice that can make a deeper impact on a specific Senator from a specific state.  The voice of a constituent is also the voice of a voter. Shawna Thomas, NMA Government Relations Liaison, will help any of our members draft letters and make sure they get to the proper people and offices.  Please contact her as soon as possible at [email protected] or (202) 518-6383.