Safety Zone
By: James Marsden
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On the Road in Kansas: Beef producers committed to food safety

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(The views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly those of the author.)

About 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),


We 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.


Recently, 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.


All 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.


At 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.


For 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.


The 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.



8/7/2009 12:04 PM 


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