They say that a measure of greatness is how one performs not in easy times, but in challenging ones. It’s no secret that our nation — and our industry — has faced challenging times in the last year, but despite these challenges, we have accomplished great things of which we can all be proud.

The ingenuity, productivity and dedication of American producers and meat and poultry processors continue to provide American consumers with an astonishing array of product choices. Numerous flavor options and nutritional profiles are offered at extremely reasonable prices. In, fact, Americans spend less than any other developed nation in the world on meat and poultry products — about 1.7 percent of our incomes per year today down from over 4 percent in 1970.

It is amazing to think we are achieving these efficiencies while animal agriculture’s environmental footprint is shrinking and its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) has remained nearly constant since 1990. This is impressive considering U.S. increases in meat production of almost 50 percent, milk production of 16 percent and egg production of almost 33 percent. The fact that the level of GHG emissions from U.S. animal agriculture has remained relatively constant while protein production has increased dramatically reflects improved feed efficiencies, better manure-management strategies and efficient use of cropland.

This did not happen by accident. Our companies care about their environmental footprint and they know a sustainable meat industry is one that takes a long-term view of its impact on natural resources, animal welfare, employees, consumers and the communities in which they operate. Protecting these critical resources ensures the health of our businesses, our workforce, our communities and our customers.

The meat industry is proud of its efforts to be responsible corporate citizens working to sustain our industry’s bright future in feeding our nation and world. That is why AMI is launching a new Web site — The site demonstrates to the media and to the public the many sustainability efforts under way within our industry. We’re also excited about our new Sustainability Summit that will be featured at Worldwide Food Expo 2009.

Food safety continues to be AMI’s top priority and therefore, we were pleased to join in support of President Obama’s Food Safety Working Group. AMI was also invited to testify before Congress on food safety twice this year and used both opportunities to emphasize the positive food-safety record of meat and poultry products and argue for regulations that would increase the food-safety profile of our products.

Also on the legislative front, AMI, joined by 70 leaders from business, organized labor, law enforcement, faith-based and immigration advocacy groups, met with President Obama for a discussion on immigration reform at the White House. The meeting provided an opportunity to highlight AMI’s longstanding involvement with and support for the government’s new hire screening program E-Verify. In July, AMI’s Executive Committee endorsed a seven-year phased-in mandate for E-Verify, making the meat and poultry industry the first business sector to do so.

One cannot talk about the state of the industry without mentioning the state of the economy. Obviously, it has been a challenging year across all industries due to the global economic recession. But a new economic impact study conducted by AMI this year demonstrates just how important the meat and poultry industry is to the overall vibrancy of the whole economy.

According to the study (, the meat and poultry industry directly and indirectly employs 6.2 million people, paying almost $200 billion in wages and benefits. The total contribution in terms of economic output to our economy is over $832 billion — that’s nearly 6 percent of total GDP.

While priorities, challenges and opportunities shift from year to year, one thing remains constant: U.S. meat and poultry is among the safest, most abundant and most affordable anywhere in the world. We have achieved success through research, technology and plain hard work. That will never change.