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

December 22, 2000




The next big event is definitely going to be NMA’s MEATXPO’01 and 55th Annual Convention. We didn’t choose Las Vegas out of a hat, we’re going there to celebrate the spirit of ingenuity and genius which drives this industry. Oh, and the luck, don’t forget the luck. I understand the Lady herself will be staying with us at the Rio Suite and Casino Resort.


But this convention is just about having fun at the tables. Our round table seminars are going to be packed with information. This years topics include:


Monday, February 19           

Interventions: Kill Floor & Beyond

Living with Zero Tolerance for RTE Products

NMA: The Roadmap Ahead for Members

Importers Meet with U.S. Processors

Tuesday, February 20

Achieving Optimum Process Control

IDVs and Other Regulatory Compliance

Making Ergonomics Standards Work

Case Ready With Partnerships

Wednesday, February 21

Laboratory Technology

Inspector-Company Relations

Managing & Responding to Crises

Value Based Carcass Assessment


Specialty Meetings


Wednesday, February 21

Managing Livestock Drug Residues

Compliance on the Doorstep

Mandatory Price Reporting

Crisis Management


This year’s keynote guest speaker is R. Randolph Devening, CEO of Foodbrands America. Devening joined Foodbrands America, Inc. in August 1994, as Chairman, President and CEO. Foodbrands America produces, markets and distributes branded and processed food products for the foodservice and retail delicatessen markets. It was acquired by IBP in 1997. Devening will speak during the Annual Meeting on Wednesday, February 21.


Prior to joining Foodbrands America he held various senior level positions, the most recent as Vice Chairman of the Board of the Fleming Companies, Inc. Devening is a graduate of Stanford University and holds an MBA in Finance and Marketing from Harvard Business School. He currently serves as director of Hancock Fabrics, Inc., Keystone Automotive Operations, Inc., and Love's Country Stores, Inc.


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Early this month, the European Council approved a resolution on the precautionary principle. An important step toward implementing the controversial concept within the EU, the resolution is also intended to gain recognition by the World Trade Organization, Food Chemical News Daily reported on December 18.


The precautionary principle (see Lean Trimmings 12/18/00) resolution includes a burden of proof for risk assessments determined "by the competent authorities," who "should be able to decide case by case, on the basis of clear rules established at the appropriate level, who is responsible for providing the scientific data required for a fuller risk assessment." As to achieving balance in applying the precautionary principle, the final text states that decisions must "take into account social and environmental costs and the public acceptability of the different options possible, and include, where feasible, an economic analysis, it being understood that requirements linked to the protections of public health, including the effects of the environment on public health, must be given priority."




After 27 years of publications, The Meat Sheet announced that it was going to suspend operations. According to the company’s press statement, “The future use of non-electronic private reporting appears limited and therefore we must explore other opportunities available.” Among the innovations of The Meat Sheet over the years were the “American Meat Exchange” and the reporting of Hi’s, Low’s and Volume, which were unheard of when The Meat Sheet began. “We stand ready to assist the industry in any way that will be needed when USDA implements the mandatory reporting requirements and the continuing development of e-business applications,” said the statement. For more information you can contact Dr. William Albanos, Jr. at [email protected].




After a costly recall, Omaha Steaks returned to prominence with an exciting Associated Press report about its new safety regulations. Now that’s public relations. “In October, Omaha Steaks for the first time voluntarily recalled some of its products – about 11 tons of ground beef – because of possible contamination with the E. coli bacteria,” said the report. “The company offered refunds or replacement products to customers, and its sales appear to have not been hurt.” The company has apparently spent about $250 million during the past 10 years on promotion and has developed one of the more successful brand names in direct marketing. “You have L.L. Bean, Land’s End and Omaha Steaks,” said Bob Wientzen, president and CEO. “My guess is Omaha Steaks has probably brought more notoriety to Omaha than any national marketing effort.”


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Every three years, six U.S. meat associations, including NMA, combine to co-sponsor an educational visit to the world’s largest meat trades fair, the IFFA, in Frankfurt, Germany. 


Tour Dates:

May 17-27, 2001


Contact NMA at (510) 763-1533 for more information. And make sure, when you sign, up that you tell them you’re with National Meat Association.




There may be a simple explanation for BSE, argued the British newspaper the Guardian recently. The most interesting aspect of France's BSE scandal is that it makes no sense at all. Britain stopped exporting contaminated cattle feed to Europe in 1991 (though it continued sending it to the third world until 1996). In most other European Union countries cases have already peaked and declined, as expected. But in France the number of infected animals has doubled in the past year. It is impossible to see how this pattern could result from the export of British bone meal.


Since 1988 a Somerset farmer, Mark Purdey, has been arguing that scientists have overlooked the root causes of BSE. Self-taught and self-financed, he has studied the brain's complex biochemical pathways, and this year published a groundbreaking paper in a respected medical journal. His theories have met with a less than laudatory response, they are however interesting and worth hearing.


Prions, the brain proteins whose alteration seems to be responsible for BSE, are designed to protect the brain from the oxidizing properties of chemicals activated by dangerous agents such as ultraviolet light, Purdey argues. When, he suggests, the prion proteins are exposed to too little copper and too much manganese, the manganese takes the place of the copper that the prion normally binds to. The protein becomes distorted and loses its function.


BSE arose in British herds in the 80s, Purdey asserts, because the Ministry of Agriculture started forcing all cattle farmers to treat their animals with an organophosphate pesticide called phosmet, at far higher doses than are used elsewhere in the world. The pesticide had to be poured along the line of the spinal cord. Phosmet, Purdey has shown, captures copper. At the same time cattle feed was being supplemented with chicken manure, from birds dosed with manganese to increase their egg yield. The prion proteins in the cows' brains were both deprived of copper and dosed with manganese. In France the use of phosmet first became mandatory in Brittany. Twenty of France's initial 28 cases of BSE emerged there. BSE's subsequent spread, Purdey maintains, mirrors the use of the pesticide.


Poisoning by similar means may explain the distribution of the human form of the disease. Of the two main clusters of vCJD in Britain one, in Kent, is in the middle of a fruit- and hop-growing area where huge quantities of organophosphates and manganese-based fungicides are used. The other is in Queniborough in Leicestershire, whose dyeworks (until they caught fire a few years ago, spraying chemicals over the village) used to dump some of their residues into the sewage system, Purdey alleges. The sewage was spread over the fields. Dyeworks used shedloads of manganese.




Scientists at Texas A&M University unveiled a cloned, disease-resistant black Angus bull this week, reported the Associated Press. They said the animal could lead to safer beef and more efficient ranching worldwide. The month-old calf was cloned from genetic material frozen 15 years ago from a bull that was naturally resistant to brucellosis, tuberculosis, and salmonellosis, all of which can be passed on to humans through beef, milk, or contamination. The new animal carries the same traits, which scientists said should make it unnecessary to use vaccines and antibiotics to keep it healthy.


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Looking for that perfect gift at the very very very last minute (or a day late even)? These books might interest anyone in the meat industry. The first is by NMA Member Aidells Sausage founder Bruce Aidells. It’s called Bruce Aidells Complete Sausage Book. For more information read this week’s Ahead of the Herd. The second book is a little more obscure, but interesting nonetheless. It’s called Jungle Tales, Adventures in Meat Inspection. Filled with ficitonal stories, autobiographical accounts by the writer Dr. Winfield Massie, and tall tales, it’s well-written and fun. Dr. Massie apparently spent 20 years as a veterinary inspector before writing his book of stories. Published by a very small press, it’s not the best edition in the world, however. The book is available from Wildworks Publishing at 1-800-968-7065.


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

Edited by Jeremy Russell

December 22, 2000



About 35 hog, beef and lamb packers/processors attended the December 19 meeting in Washington to hear from USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and Market News staff about how the department plans to implement Mandatory Price Reporting (MPR) on January 30, 2001. Representatives of livestock organizations also attended, but made virtually no comment.


John Van Dyke, Chief of the Market News Branch, described how the department plans to implement what is conceded as being a very complex, complicated program. He introduced the information technology (IT) consultant retained by AMS who went through the mechanics of electronic transmission.


There were questions, many of which were answered, but some still defy clarification within the scope of the statutory authority and rule. The following may be of guidance to firms required, by law, to comply:


1.   Several transmission data vehicles are available, including manual entry into AMS website forms (low volume transactions) and manual upload of transaction files to the AMS website. Several attendees urged consideration of an automated upload for those in other time zones who would otherwise have to work in the middle of the night. AMS had some security concerns, but generally the problem is knowing just how efficiently any such system will work.


2.   Many questions revolved around the definition of a “lot” of boxed beef, and by the end of the day everyone was confused. The current definition, as explained by Van Dyke, is to try to capture volume transactions and exclude distributive transactions. Hopefully, USDA will try to clarify this definition.


3.   The USDA’s computer will be programmed to report only data that meets what is known as the 3/60 rule as defined on pg. 75477 of the Federal Register. Information will have to come from 3 entities with no one contributing more than 60% of the volume, in order to report the data.


4.   Information is reportable when it is available. If it only becomes available after the reporting deadline, then it is reported at the next deadline. There was much discussion on this issue, especially affecting livestock that is not priced until it is graded, because of the time delay. This needs further clarification. It has the likelihood of distorting the report in rapidly evolving markets.


5.   Livestock purchased in an auction by a packer’s salaried employee is not reportable. Such livestock is reportable if purchased by someone who resells to the packer. Packer-owned cattle are not reportable.


6.   Many questions were asked about the definition of what constitutes branded product which is not reportable. Further clarification is needed.


NMA and AMI submitted a series of formal questions which were developed at an industry meeting the day before, and included some of the above. IBP submitted a separate letter earlier this month raising questions. Both will be available from NMA on request. There’s a lot of work to be done clarify this rule before practical implementation can be accomplished.




NMA today submitted comments to the  FSIS on the industry HACCP petition. The comments helped justify and explain the petition and urged FSIS to grant the requested relief and amend the existing regulations as soon as is practical. For a copy, send a self-addressed, stamped (33˘) envelope to Jeremy Russell at NMA.


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President-elect George W. Bush announced Ann Veneman as Secretary of Agriculture. Veneman served as director of the California Food and Agriculture Department from 1995 to 1998. She was the highest-ranking woman at USDA from 1989 to 1991, when she served under President George Bush as deputy secretary for international affairs and commodities programs.


Veneman, an attorney who is the daughter of California peach farmers, emphasized foreign trade, food safety, and education during her tenure as California's agriculture director. Prior to that, under former President George Bush, she dealt with international trade at USDA, rising to deputy secretary. During that time, she helped negotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Uruguay Round talks for the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Since Wilson left office, Veneman has practiced law in Sacramento, but has maintained farm connections as a specialist in food, agriculture, environment, technology, and trade issues. She is a strong advocate of high tech's role in farming, from e-commerce over the Internet to genetic engineering.




Beginning January 1, 2001, the state minimum wage in California will increase from $5.75 to $6.25 an hour. Their will be a second increase in 2002 to $6.75 an hour.




The American Meat Institute, The American Association of Meat Processors and Eastern Meat Packers Association last week petitioned USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to modify its Uniform Rules of Practice, which specify how meat and poultry inspection regulations

should be enforced. The regulations, which became effective earlier this year, allow USDA inspectors to slow down or even close processors for violations of microbial standards or sanitation procedures. The petition seeks to amend the rules to ensure that federally inspected plants are afforded the due process protections guaranteed under the federal statutes and the Constitution.




The International Trade Commission (ITC) has launched a general fact-finding investigation to analyze tariff and non-tariff barriers that impact the trade of processed foods and beverages at the request of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee of Ways and Means. At the Committee’s request, the ITC will describe the tariff and non-tariff barriers affecting trade in major and potential markets, evaluate the prevalence of tariff escalation for processed food and beverage products, and analyze the impact of tariff and non tariff barriers on trade and investment in the processed food and beverage sectors.




A comprehensive, national definition of “organic” for all processed foods and products, enabling the labeling of meats raised without pesticides or hormones, was announced on December 20. Foods labeled as “organic” must consist of at least 95% organically produced ingredients, said USDA. USDA also said consumers will be able to recognize organic products because they will carry a USDA mark on them, similar to the “USDA Prime” identification for beef or the grade labels on egg cartons. Previously, organic standards were determined at the state level, which led to a wide variety of interpretations. The new standard details methods, practices and substances that can be used in producing and handling organic livestock, as well as processed products.