A few thoughts by John Nalivka: Food safety a big issue to everyone in the supply chain
Food safety is rapidly becoming the foundation of the red meat and poultry industries. Cattlemen at the ranch level generally feel little direct impact from food safety issues such as E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria, etc. Packers and processors feel the greatest impact when a problem occurs. They have been assigned responsibility for providing safe, wholesome products. The red meat and poultry industries have gone the distance to address many issues including quality and consistency and there are issues that will continue to pose challenges going forward. One issue that will continue to be a headline is food safety. Consumers demand safe food – period. Why shouldn’t they?
I recently attended a meeting of Safe Foods Corporation in Little Rock, Arkansas where I gave a presentation on the state of the red meat industry. Safe Foods Corporation is a leading provider of anti-microbial interventions in the food industry. Twenty years ago, conversations about food safety interventions in packing plants were at the beginning stages. Today, those conversations are reality in a big way. After listening to the other presentations from micro-biologists, Safe Foods customers, and Safe Foods employees, the two day meeting left quite an impression on me from the standpoint of how important food safety interventions have become to the economic viability of the meat industry.
So, for everything that is impacting the industry today, food safety is non-negotiable. Customers will accept nothing less than the highest standards and guess what – I don’t think most consumers believe that it is their responsibility to assure safety by reading the warning on the package about proper preparation, i.e. properly cooking the product. This the challenge presented to the red meat and poultry industries.
Another consideration about food safety today is that many consumers tend to associate a lot of things to those two words, food safety. This includes vaccinations on the ranch, the use of antibiotics, growth hormones, and various beef products including lean, finely textured beef just to name a few.
Food safety is everyone’s challenge regardless of where you are in the supply chain. Furthermore, the costs to the industry for safe food interventions and assurances may become simply a cost of doing business with little opportunity to recoup that cost from the consumer. Record prices are behind us. The real challenge of increased regulations and costs coupled with lower prices lies ahead.
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