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

August 14, 2000


National Meat Association will be meeting Thursday (17th) through Saturday (19th) in Aspen, Colorado for the Summer Board Meeting and Conference. As well as board meetings and the usual bevy of exciting activities, NMA is hosting two distinguished keynote speakers. Former Senator Hank Brown, now the president of the University of Northern Colorado, will address politics and the role of education. ConAgra Red Meat President John Simons will be the featured speaker on our industry panel. He will speak and field questions on "Meat Marketing in the New Millenium." Also, if you are attending this summer's meeting, don't miss the PAC reception, hosted at his Aspen home by Steve Spiritas. There are also a few more spaces available in the Process Validation Workshop being held on August 16 in Denver -- contact the office by the Wednesday, August 15 to get on board.


NMA Director and Chairman, Regulatory Inspection Committee Lou Gast, who was the first FSIS Director of the Compliance Staff back in 1966, was invited August 5 to an essentially private memorial service at USDA for the two FSIS Compliance Officers and the California State Department of Agriculture Investigator who were killed in a plant in San Leandro, California.

The service was attended by Deputy Secretary Richard Rominger, Under Secretary Catherine Woteki, Deputy Under Secretary Caren Wilcox, FSIS Administrator Tom Billy, Associate Administrator Maggie Glavin, Deputy Administrator Dr. Mark Mina, District Manager Dr. Murli Prasad, and many other FSIS management and supervisory personnel. A large contingent of FSIS Compliance Officers and Inspection supervisory personnel were also present to show their sympathy, concern and support for the families of the deceased, who were also present. Gast said it was a moving and emotional experience, which everyone should hope will never need to be repeated.

Administrator Billy made it clear, both at the memorial service and in personal conversations later with Gast, that there will no longer be such a thing as an "idle threat" made to FSIS personnel; any threats or comments taken as threats will be treated in the same fashion by FSIS as they are treated by responsible persons at airline terminals with respect to comments about bombs. The Agency is also reviewing the workplace environment to determine all of the potentially explosive settings that FSIS personnel may find themselves due to tasks that FSIS asks them to accomplish and to seek ways to minimize confrontational situations. In these ways, the Agency will seek to ensure that no tragic killings such as the three in San Leandro will occur ever again. Billy indicated that he would be getting this message out soon, but he did not elaborate on how. Nor was it explained what action, or actions, would be taken in connection with any comments taken as "threats." However, Gast inferred from comments that FSIS inspection personnel could withhold inspection at a potentially dangerous workplace until the threat of harm no longer existed. It is clear that jokes, suggestive remarks, or direct threats of any kind must be avoided. Appeal procedures and methods are available. (FSIS has made a video of the memorial service available at

NOTE: NMA encourages its members to review the NMA resource on "The Inspection Relationship," which provides guidance about appropriate industry/inspection relations.

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The National Provisioner magazine published a highly organized and detailed report on sausages and other processed meats. Titled "Headliners: Processors and their star brands take center stage in the sausage and frankfurter marketplace," the article features breakdowns of the top 10 vendors and brands in nearly a dozen categories. Each breakdown features dollar sales and other useful information. "Sausage, the largest segment of the processed meat market," the accompanying article begins, "experienced growth ranging from 5.1 to 12.5 percent in dollar sales, and 1.2 to 7.9 percent in unit sales of refrigerated breakfast sausage, refrigerated dinner sausage, frozen sausage, and refrigerated frankfurters for the 52-week period ending April 23, 2000." Anyone interested in the category will find loads of information in this month's NP.


Two NMA members were recognized by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) for introducing an exciting new beef product. King's Command Foods and Harris Ranch Beef Company are winners of two of this year's Best New Beef Product Awards. King's Command won the Best New Foodservice Beef Product for its fully-cooked, old fashioned style beef patties. Harris Ranch won the Most Innovative, Commercially Promising New Beef Product Award for its fully-cooked Western style beef stew. This is the second year in a row that Harris has taken home one of these awards. NMA is proud to have such innovative members.


The National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) has developed a "Brand Mark" that signifies that a beef product -- or a product typically used with beef -- delivers taste, quality and satisfaction. Each quarter, the Brand-Like Commission, a nine-member panel of leading U.S. beef producers, and NCBA's Culinary Center review branded, convenient beef products on a range of metrics for potential use of the Brand Mark. Each approved product manufacturer must sign a one-year partnership agreement, and products must be reviewed after the agreement expires if any element in product formulation or packaging has changed. Since the effort began in 1997, more than 30 beef products have been approved and can currently use the Brand Mark.


NMA has learned that Mike Gangel of member company CHAD Co. will be speaking at the Country Meatworks Association of New South Wales' 2000 Convention and Trade Exhibition in Canberra, Australia. Gangel will discuss "Decontamination of Beef and Small Stock Carcasses." We announced last week that Jim Maxey of Fresno Beef would be speaking at the convention.

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Feller’s Premium Deli Meats

Salt Lake City, UT


EQL, Inc. (Modified Associate)

Hartwell, GA

FOODSAFE Systems, Inc.

San Francisco, CA

Green-Tek, Inc.

Edgerton, WI

Dawn Mettler (Modified Associate)

Rock Bridge, OH

M.P.S.C., Inc.

St. Paul, MN

Ross Industries, Inc.

Midland, WA

Stephanie Southard (Student)

Brighton, CO


Argentina, the world's fourth largest beef exporter, has suspended beef exports in the wake of a foot-and-mouth disease scare in the country's northeast. An Argentine Agriculture Department spokesman told Reuters that "Argentina made the decision to cease meat exports to give confidence to the markets until the sanitary situation is resolved." Argentine officials say that they have since tracked the disease down to a small group of cattle imported from Paraguay, possibly illegally. They have acted to quarantine all animals that may have come in contact with the group. Despite this swift response, it may be several weeks before U.S. officials agree to resume imports of fresh Argentinean beef, the Wall Street Journal reports today.


The Lemelson Foundation filed a patent infringement suit earlier this year against a huge number of leading businesses in the United States, including many food companies and even some meat companies. The Foundation claims that the defendants have used a patented automatic identification method to track or identify their products or other workpieces and that such use has infringed patents held by the late Jerome Lemelson who reportedly invented the same.

National Meat Association’s counsel, Olsson, Frank & Weeda, has participated on our behalf in discussions with some of the other defendants to explore options and strategies to guide the interests of NMA’s members. Members who have been served with a complaint by the Lemelson Foundation may wish to let us know of their situation. Please communicate your interests to Communications Manager Jeremy Russell at NMA-West.


Complicating issues surrounding Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) testing, preliminary research shows that certain subgroups of Lm may not cause illness in humans. Naturally it is counterproductive to hold non-pathogens up to the same zero tolerance standards as harmful strains. Martin Wiedman, an associate professor at Cornell, announced his findings at the International Association for Food Protection meeting in Atlanta, Food Chemical News Daily reported August 8. It was his recommendation that regulators should change the standard to match the risk. However, Wiedman said there is not enough information yet available to identify which strains are not harmful to humans. Specifically, more information is needed about food processing isolates, he said.


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FSIS announced the availability of materials from the June 9, 2000, public meeting on in-distribution (ID) activities and initiatives and is providing an opportunity for public comment on those materials and on the matters presented at the public meeting. The June 9 meeting was held to discuss the Agency's strategy for addressing the safety of meat and poultry products during distribution and to provide an overview and update on the ID Project. The materials will be available in the FSIS docket room and on the FSIS web site ( - linked from NMA's website). Persons are invited to review and submit comments on the materials. Comments should be received by September 13, 2000.


Dr. Patton Smith, former State Veterinarian of California, passed away last week after a long struggle with cancer. He will be missed by his wife, Carol, and their family. A memorial service has been planned for Friday, August 18, 11:00am at the Christ Unity Church, 9429 Folsom Blvd, Sacramento. While we do not yet have any specific information regarding wishes of the family for flowers or donations, cards may be sent to the family at 8431 Denison Court, Sacramento, CA 95826.


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

August 14, 2000


By this time last year, AMS had bought almost 30,000,000 lbs. of ground beef for distribution to the school lunch and other food assistance programs. This year, AMS has bought only 10,648,000 lbs., just over a third of 1999 buys. This meager purchase has come at the price of $16,595,000, whereas last year's more robust purchase cost $31,360,000 -- that makes this year's purchase a third the amount for more than half the price. And these numbers only begin to tell the story.

AMS purchases in 1999 spanned a list of seven products. Of those seven product types, four have yet to be purchased this year. AMS has bought mainly Fine Ground, paying prices ranging from $1.7229 to 1.9578 per lb. for 1,600,000 lbs. of product, whereas it bought 1,164,000 lbs. of the same product for $1.2957 or less per lb. in 1999. Also this year, AMS accepted bids on a total of 228,000 lbs. of 100% Beef (compared to 1,740,000 lbs. last year) and 8,820,000 lbs. of Reprocess Beef (compared to 24,836,040 lbs.). And these buys were made at prices as high as $1.6310 per lb. for product that was bought for no higher than $1.2957 last year. Most of the purchase has been recorded last week in a big buy of Reprocess Beef (see USDA BUYS BEEF on page four of Lean Trimmings for the details of this purchase). It is a move no doubt calculated to get product to processors in time for the finished product to reach the schools by day one. Reportedly, schools are concerned about getting their supplies.

The market impact of buying practices is huge. AMS balances the dual roles of removing surplus commodities from the market and providing its customers with food. This is a dramatic shift away from both. Although the goal, as described by senior USDA officials, is food safety, the effect has been merely to up the risk incurred by a supplier of ground beef to the program, because his product, which may be rendered totally safe through proper cooking and handling, must now face a zero tolerance for Salmonella. Although AMS has said that it will create a similar standard for poultry, other products, produce especially, have been implicated in pathogenic incidence at schools. Many of these products are more dangerous than ground beef because they cannot be cooked, yet there is not even a suggestion of placing such a prohibition against their purchase. One can only conclude that ground beef processors have been singled out because one supplier to the school lunch program dared to challenge a capricious and scientifically flawed performance standard in court. And where will schools get product from if the cupboard at the government warehouse is empty? They will spend scarce dollars buying commercial meat from the nearest wholesaler.

Meanwhile, there is a beef glut expanding on the horizon. The whole market is diving down (see CATTLE MARKET DOWN on the next page for more on the glut). A regulatory heavy AMS, unable to buy the products necessary to help contain surplus commodities in the beef industry, can do nothing but exacerbate the oversupply problems the industry will be facing in the coming months. It is a diabolical twist of fate that the federal government has reduced the amount of beef it can take off the market at a time when those excess supplies are coming in abundance.

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NMA is offering its newest resource titled "The Inspection Relationship," developed by NMA’s Executive Director, Rosemary Mucklow, and NMA consultants, L.L. Gast and Dr. Carl Jolley. This resource provides guidance on how to work and deal with your inspector in various situations. For example, do you know what is the proper handling of a USDA Retain/Reject tag? Or do you know what to do if your inspector leaves the facility after a dispute, "suspends" inspection services, and locks up the official stamps? Learning more about your rights and the inspector’s rights can help make your inspection relationship, a better working relationship. If you are interested in receiving a copy of this resource, please send a self-addressed/stamped (33¢) envelope to Sydara Gabriel at NMA-West.


The Small Business Administration's (SBA) 8a program has not fulfilled its mission to help disadvantage entrepreneurs obtain government contracts, the Government Accounting Office (GAO) said in a new report. Instead, SBA has been giving those firms managerial help that they don't need. A report this week in the Wall Street Journal reveals that there was a concentration of federal contracts among a small subset of eligible firms. SBA conceded that its program has shortcomings, but argued that they are being addressed.


Novartis, a large producer of genetically modified seeds, announced early this month that it has decided to make its own products free of genetic modifications. Citing consumer pressure, the company has begun phasing Genetically Modified Organism (GMOs) out of its products. The company said it's ban does not conflict with its promotion of GM seeds, because they are for different markets, Food Chemical News Daily reported August 4.

FDA announced that it plans to regulate GM animals as animal drugs. DNA would be considered an additive under the plan. The agency is also looking at other regulatory questions on cloned animals and will release guidance documents by next year.

Australian scientists, meanwhile, said they would step up cloning experiments later this year in a bid to produce top-quality bulls and dairy cows. And Japanese government officials announced last month that a cloned cow had given birth, the first birth ever to a cloned cow. Dolly, the cloned Scottish sheep (the world's first cloned mammal) has also been successfully bred.


Front-month cattle futures posted their lowest settlement in nearly a year last week at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), the Wall Street Journal reported. This week, USDA's Cattle-on-Feed report is expected to show a record number of cattle in feedlots as of August 1. Because corn prices are low, feedlots will continue to place cattle on the market and drive prices down. "Supplies are massive," said Alaron Trading Corp. analyst Chuck Levitt. "Because of cheap corn, we're feeding cattle to heavier weights and we'll produce several hundred million pounds more beef this year than we ever have." Add to this hefty supplies of poultry and pork and prices will be dropping. "The albatross of supply hangs over the market," said one CME livestock trader.