One of the problems facing regulators and the meat
industry is how to implement effective food safety processes in small and
very small plants.
Many of the food safety technologies that have emerged over the past 15
years are expensive and engineered for large volume plants. These include
systems that are essential for control of pathogens during the slaughter
process (i.e. thermal pasteurization of carcasses).
Food safety requirements are identical for all companies, big and small.
It is important that small businesses have access to affordable food
safety technologies that allow them to meet regulatory and consumer
requirements and still remain viable.
Small businesses actually have some advantages over
large companies in terms of implementing changes. The decision making process is less
complicated and small companies can usually act more quickly. It is also often easier to accommodate
process changes in smaller plants. Some of the most innovative food
safety systems have been implemented by small businesses.
Clearly, there are competitive and consumer
benefits associated with maintaining a large number of meat and poultry
companies. Despite trends in
concentration, there are still several thousand active meat processing
companies in the United States. These companies provide tens of thousands
of jobs and in many cases anchor the communities where they are located.
Consumers enjoy a wide variety of products because the industry is not
limited to a handful of large companies.
Small businesses will remain viable only if
technology providers make the effort to engineer food safety technologies
so they are not limited to large volume plants and provisions are made
that make necessary food safety innovations affordable. The federal government and state governments
could make technologies more affordable by providing tax credits and
other incentives for small businesses that make food safety related
Compromising on food safety is not an option. Meat and poultry products must be safe
for consumers regardless of whether products are produced by the largest
company or the smallest company.
By helping small businesses implement safe food processes and stay
in business, everyone benefits.