September 28, 2000
SUPREME BEEF BANKRUPTCY
OAKLAND, CA – The thirty year old meat processor, Supreme Beef, filed bankruptcy on September 26, 2000. The company had been held to uniquely stringent regulatory standards since Federal District Judge Joe Fish handed down his Preliminary Injunction last year halting USDA’s enforcement of its Salmonella Performance Standard. The bankruptcy filing comes after a lengthy legal battle with USDA over the inappropriately enforced Salmonella Standard. Even though Supreme prevailed in a court of law, it ultimately lost. Despite having its actions declared illegal, USDA continued to stigmatize Supreme by recalling the company’s products from the school lunch program, changing the criteria for product approval and other unjustified actions which effectively eliminated much of Supreme’s business. “We are disappointed in USDA’s decision to continue litigation, with its appeal of the Dallas Federal Court’s decision,” said Supreme Beef President Steve Spiritas. “Efforts by our company to have discussions with the department to resolve matters have been met with a deaf ear.”
National Meat Association supported the principle behind Supreme’s legal battle. It was joined by four other trade associations as amici to the Texas Litigation, as the case has come to be called. “More than any other single action by the USDA, the Texas Litigation shows how regulatory uncertainty affects the market,” said NMA Executive Director Rosemary Mucklow. “We’ve seen a good company, with a strong business and a fine history dismantled by being held to a standard that didn’t make any sense and was just plain wrong.”
It is quite clear that meat processors, especially small meat processors like Supreme, cannot be subjected to unsound regulatory practices without severe disruption. “By enforcing such unscientific standards, USDA contributes to the very consolidation it claims to be slowing, all the while hiding behind the rhetoric of ‘food safety,’” Mucklow said. NMA will continue to vigorously defend its members from such arbitrary actions.
National Meat Association is a non-profit trade association representing meat packers and processors, as well as equipment manufacturers and suppliers who provide services to the meat industry. The association, with over 600 members throughout the United States, includes membership in Canada, Australia and Mexico.