a year after the 1993 Jack-in-the-Box E. coli O157:H7
outbreak, I moved from the AMI Foundation in Washington,
DC to KSU in Manhattan,
Kansas to join their
beef safety research group. Some of the first people I met in Kansas
were Lee Borck, Kenny Knight and Andrew Murphy, three beef producers
and co-founders of The Beef Marketing Group (BMG),
had discussions then about pre-harvest food safety and its importance
in an integrated food safety system for control of E.
coli O157:H7. At a time when very little was being done
in this segment, BMG initiated a comprehensive program called
“Progressive Beef” that included HACCP at beef feedlots, quality
systems, domestic source verification and a plan to address animal
handling and welfare. They also implemented a Natural Beef
program in which hormones and antibiotics are never administered, no
animal byproducts are used in feed and cattle are sourced and age
verified from birth.
I visited one the BMG feedlots near Great
Bend, KS and
reviewed the food safety and animal welfare programs that had been
put in place over the past several years. HACCP is strictly voluntary
for beef producers, but BMG’s HACCP system is as well designed and
comprehensive as if were a regulatory requirement. There are also
extensive animal handling systems and training for BMG employees and
drivers who transport cattle. The animal identification and
traceability systems are amongst the best in the industry.
of this was impressive, but what I found to be most notable, was that
all of the work and capital that were required to achieve these
remarkable results happened because of BMG’s vision and commitment to
food safety, sustainability and animal welfare. None of it was
required by federal regulations.
the time BMG made these
commitments, considerable investments were required and there was no
assurance that they would ever be recovered. As it turned out, there
are plenty of customers who like the safety and quality elements of
the BMG systems,
including Natural Beef and are willing to pay a premium to get them.
years, the beef industry has had to operate in a world in which the
retail value of beef products didn’t allow for profitability between
all sectors. The BMG
systems add value to beef and that added value supports profitability
for beef producers, packers and retailers.
founders of the Beef Marketing Group decided to produce products that
meet consumer expectations. The result is one of the most successful
beef production companies in the world.