The National Provisioner celebrates 125 years! (Part 5)
1991-2016: Total transformation
Editor’s Note: The following is the fifth of six reports covering magazine highlights and major industry events during The National Provisioner’s 125 years in publishing.
As The National Provisioner (NP) celebrated its 100-year anniversary in April 1991, industry was struggling to meet ever-changing consumer demand for more … safer products, further value-added products, higher-quality products plus more convenient products and packaging.
Grocery chains began carrying new, alternative products in organic, natural and grass-fed offerings — which have since gone mainstream — to satisfy consumer demand, explains Maureen Ogle, Ames, Iowa-based historian and author of “In Meat We Trust,” among other works.
These were also contentious times. Factors propelling (correctly or otherwise) the alternative-foods movement included the Jack In the Box E. coli O157:H7 outbreak of 1993; growing public awareness of E. coli; massive animal manure spills, especially in North Carolina; bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or Mad Cow disease); plus Oprah Winfrey’s “Amarillo Texas beef trial,” in which Winfrey and a guest were charged with libeling the beef industry in relation to BSE in one 1996 episode; both were found not guilty in 1998.
“Add in the Internet, and the result was unprecedented attention to — and attacks on — modes of livestock production and meat processing,” Ogle adds.
On the other hand, great achievements improved industry during the last 25 years, particularly evolving inspection from organoleptic to science-based via Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) programs. By January 2000, HACCP was implemented in all Food Safety and Inspection Service and state-inspected meat and poultry slaughter and processing establishments in the U.S.
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Intensifying consumer and customer demands also called for more humane treatment of food animals — and one champion in particular led the revolutionary charge.
“In 1999-2000, I worked with McDonald’s Corp. and Wendy’s International to implement animal welfare auditing in large beef and pork plants. This resulted in huge, positive change,” says Dr. Temple Grandin, world-renowned designer of humane livestock handling systems and facilities, and animal science professor at Colorado State University. Possibly no single person has impacted the industry in a positive way as much as Dr. Grandin has in the last 25-plus years.
Transforming with time
While industry was transforming from 1991 to 2016, NP also experienced major changes — starting with ownership. The Aug. 17, 1992, issue of NP was the first under publisher/owner Stagnito Publishing Co., which later became Deerfield, Ill.-based Stagnito Communications and a Medical World Communications (MWC) company. After 101 years of being published weekly, NP transitioned to monthly in September 1992.
With the Stagnito acquisition of NP, the editorial coverage changed almost overnight, similar in structure and strategy to what today’s issues present. Packer and processor corporate/plant cover stories became the norm, almost always fielded in-person by editors — cover ads also vanished. The Processor of the Year award, the Top 100 Processors report and The State of the Industry debuted in the last 25 years and continue today.
In January 2005, Overland Park, Kan.-based Ascend Media became NP’s new parent company. Two and a half years later, NP (and its sister food publications) was sold to current owner/publisher BNP Media, based in Troy, Mich. Along the way, new companion magazine launches, such as the Independent Processor (IP) — the first magazine dedicated solely to small and mid-sized protein processors — allowed NP to expand its coverage to meet the needs of additional readers. IP’s premiere issue was published in Feb./March 2008. Sam Gazdziak, an NP editor since 2005, has been IP’s editor-in-chief since Day One.
Additionally, NP produced a barrage of special market-oriented and technical supplements and hardcover books through the first decade of the 2000s, including 50 Years Built on a Handshake, celebrating McDonald’s 50th anniversary, published in April 2005; The 100th Anniversary of the American Hamburger, published in July 2004; The 100th Anniversary of the American Hot Dog, published in Oct. 2004; and The American Meat Institute Centennial Celebration: 100 Years of Industry Service, published in 2006, among others.
In January 2007, NP launched ProvisionerOnline.com, a property that has evolved to feature digital issues, podcasts and interviews, news and more. In December 2012, ProvisionerTV began providing unique editorial video focused on Q&As with top industry executives and influencers and event coverage. Less than a year later, the From the Editor’s Desk video column debuted, featuring editor-in-chief Andy Hanacek’s opinions on the latest topics of interest around the industry. In the spring of 2016, ProvisionerTV celebrated the posting of its 100th editorial video on its Web site.
In 1891, NP founders Robert Ganz and Sidney J. Marx proclaimed that meat trade journals should strive to be something more than mere records of trade news. If all past and current NP editors could be assembled to review the NP archives from launch to present day, they’d quickly conclude — mission accomplished. NP