U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) has introduced his Meat Safety and Accountability Act to significantly improve the ability to trace the original source of contaminated meat.

Currently, contaminated meat products are only traced back to the packing plant or butcher shop they came from. But dangerous food contamination often begins earlier in the supply chain—at the slaughterhouse, where meat sometimes comes into contact with animal hides or manure.

Tester’s legislation requires the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service to design and implement - using its existing budget - an initiative to trace tainted meat back to the original source of contamination. The bill also improves testing at meat suppliers and individual meat processors in the case of an outbreak.

Tester said his legislation is designed to hold “the right people accountable when something goes wrong,” such as potentially life-threatening outbreaks of E. coli or salmonella contamination.

“This bill puts more common sense and fairness into the equation as our food travels through the supply chain to the kitchen table,” Tester said. “This bill will make our food safer to eat by ramping up accountability. And it will help small meat processors in rural America that too often get blamed for contamination that didn’t begin with them.”

Tester wrote the amendment with John Munsell, a former butcher and current manager for the Foundation for Accountability in Regulatory Enforcement (FARE).

“If nothing changes, we are virtually guaranteed there will be ongoing outbreaks and recurring recalls as a consequence of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s unwillingness to trace contamination back to the source,” said Munsell in the Billings Gazette. “Senator Tester is to be commended for his willingness to challenge the USDA on this public health issue.”

The amendment will now go to the Senate Agriculture Committee. Full test of the amendment is available at http://www.billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/pdf_d5352536-36ff-11df-91ce-001cc4c002e0.html.

Sources: Sen. Jon Tester home page, Billings Gazette

Niman Ranch partners with Levy Restaurants

Niman Ranch and Levy Restaurants announced an exclusive partnership that brings Niman Ranch’s all-natural, gourmet beef, pork, turkey, sausages and franks to the menus of a select number of high-profile sports and entertainment venues that Levy services, including Arlington Park, Churchill Downs, Conseco Fieldhouse, Georgia Dome, Nationals Park and U.S. Cellular Field. Niman Ranch is supplied by a network of more than 650 independent family farmers who raise livestock traditionally, humanely and sustainably.

Levy Restaurants will be the exclusive purveyor of Niman Ranch products in sports and entertainment venues. The collaboration includes a concession component, a suites and club program and will incorporate select cuts of meat in premium areas at participating Levy venues. Currently available on the suite menus at several arenas, the Niman Ranch offerings will be incorporated into the menus at participating ballparks, stadiums and other locations throughout the year.

“Partnering with Niman Ranch is a natural fit for our company and we are thrilled to be the exclusive provider of their products in the sports and entertainment setting,” said Rhonna Cass, Levy Restaurants chief operating officer. “Utilizing our restaurant roots, we are constantly assessing our menus to determine how we can continue to elevate the dining experience for fans. Niman Ranch products are appearing on restaurant menus and grocery shelves and we knew they could have a place in our venues as well. Both of our companies are passionate about what we do and together we are excited to provide these natural, sustainable and humanely-raised products to our guests.”

The concessions concept is a specialty cart or chef’s table serving Apple Gouda, Chipotle Cheddar and Spicy Italian sausages and an All-Beef Fearless Frank with a selection of gourmet toppings including southwestern relish, onions and peppers and apple slaw. Like all of Niman Ranch’s meats they are 100 percent natural and gluten-free. The Levy Restaurants culinary team will also work with Niman Ranch to develop a custom sausage exclusive to Levy in the coming months.

In suites, guests have the option of ordering a gourmet Sausage Sampler or Fearless Franks with accompaniments as well. Premium meat offerings will include boneless and smoked pork loin and fresh turkey breast that will appear on Levy’s signature Farm to Fork tables and in other restaurants and club areas.

“It’s clear that Levy Restaurants is an innovative company with a focus on making the food experience at their venues as memorable as the event,” said Jeff Tripician, CMO/EVP of sales for Niman Ranch. “It’s wonderful to see that there’s a place for sustainably raised food in high-volume sports and entertainment locations.”

Source: Niman Ranch

Brooks Provisions receives additional funding

Lance Wimmer, CEO of Brooks Provisions LLC, announced that it has received additional funding from one of its investors, Hancock Capital Management LLC, that will enhance the company's liquidity position. Mr. Wimmer said, "This investment, along with the implementation of a comprehensive operational and financial restructuring plan, will help to ensure Brooks' return to sustained profitability."

Wimmer joined Brooks, a leading Northeastern wholesale food distributor, at the beginning of 2010 with the objective of improving the company's financial performance. Since then, he has strengthened Brooks' management team by placing high-quality industry veterans and loyal, long-term Brooks' employees in key organizational roles. This team has implemented improvements in many operating facet of the business including: operating and overhead cost reductions; customer rationalization and profitability improvement; warehouse operations efficiency enhancements; customer service and delivery enhancements; improved inventory management; renewal of labor contract; and renewal of lease agreement.

Overall, the operational goals and objectives are now in place that will enable Brooks Provisions to deliver on its core competencies with the highest level of customer service supported by a seasoned labor force under the direction of a re-invigorated management team, the company said.

Wimmer noted that the foregoing operations improvements when coupled with the injection of additional new funding solidify the Company and enable Brooks to rebuild its industry leadership position.

Source: Brooks Provisions LLC

AAMP sets schedule for 2010 convention in Kansas City

The American Association of Meat Processors’ convention will travel to Kansas City, MO, for the 71st anniversary of their annual educational meeting and suppliers’ exhibition. The national gathering for small and very small meat, poultry, and food establishments will be held July 15-17, 2010, at the Hyatt Regency Crown Center.

The three-day event will offer timely educational sessions, a suppliers’ exhibition, the American Cured Meat Championships (ACMC), hands-on meat demonstrations, bacon production seminar, plus business networking and social opportunities for U.S., Canadian, and foreign company operators and their families. More than 100 exhibiting companies will provide information on processing equipment; packaging supplies and equipment; technical and computer services; deli, mail order and catering supplies; marketing aids; transportation, chilling and building information; laboratory services and testing equipment; consultants in various food processing areas, and more.

Non-members of AAMP are encouraged to participate in this educational event as well.

Prior to the 71st annual American Convention of Meat Processors & Suppliers' Exhibition, AAMP is offering a one-day workshop at Koch Equipment LLC in Kansas City, MO. This year’s workshop is focused on packaging. During the workshop, attendees will see a multitude of packaging demonstrations and will learn from industry experts how to not only enhance consumer appeal, but also to preserve product freshness, maintain product integrity, and extend their distribution reach.

Due to the success of the demonstration area at the 2009 convention, AAMP will once again include it this year. Featured in this demonstration area will be two meat processors presenting forty-five minute hands-on demonstrations on innovative linked sausage products in the morning. Friday afternoon will consist of a bacon production seminar with presentations by multiple processors on different types of bacon.

The 2010 American Cured Meat Championships will provide an opportunity for AAMP member firms to tune up their processes and vie for top U.S. honors. Judges who are meat scientists, specialists in the meat industry, and fellow meat processors will be evaluating the products. Prestigious prize plaques will be awarded in twenty-six categories. A complete list of classes can be found on AAMP’s website at www.aamp.com.

A change has been made for the 2010 American Cured Meat Championships (ACMC). The class known as the “Regional class” will be discontinued and replaced with a class known as the “Annual Featured Class.” This was done because the Association has recognized that as it returns to regions of the country where the convention has been previously held before, similar classes would be repeated. It was determined that the change in the class might provide more flexibility to have classes that pertain to the convention attendees and maybe generate more product development ideas.

The consensus for the 2010 Annual Featured Class was determined to be Cured, Smoked, and Cooked BBQ Ribs. Barbeque is a very traditional product linked to the Kansas City, Missouri area, but to continue with the custom of having classes that comply with the intent of the competition, cured, smoked, and cooked BBQ ribs were chosen.

Serving as the headquarter hotel, the Hyatt Regency Crown Center is located about thirty minutes from the airport. Contact the AAMP office for a hotel registration form or print a copy at www.aamp.com/events_convention.php. Online registration is also available through AAMP’s site. The deadline for group rates is June 18, 2010. All reservations made after this date are based on availability.

Source: AAMP

Hormel hoping to give home town more fiber

Hormel Foods is urging lovers of the SPAM family or products everywhere to help amp up the presence of SPAM products – the right kind, that is – on the Internet. Austin, Minn., the hometown to Hormel and the SPAM family of products is vying to become a Google Fiber City, a community willing to serve as a test bed for ultra-high-speed Internet access, so Hormel Foods is asking consumers to sign ontowww.googleaustinmn.com, click on the “Nominate Austin” tab to support the hometown bid, and encourage others in their social circles to do the same. Voting ends on Friday, March 26.

“No matter where they live, lovers of the SPAM family of products have a unique connection to Austin, where their favorite luncheon meat was born 73 years ago,” said Julie H. Craven, vice president for corporate communications at Hormel Foods Corp. “Now’s the time for these fans to act as one and help us bring the SPAM brand – and all of the other things Austin has to offer – to the rest of the world and vice-versa more quickly and with greater connectivity than ever before.”

Although it’s competing against much larger cities, Hormel said that Austin, Minn.’s diversity makes it an ideal candidate for Google’s Fiber City project. In addition to being home to Hormel, the city offers a “heart-of-America” mix of large and small businesses, cutting-edge research and medical facilities, city-owned utilities and rural and agricultural interests.

“We’re excited about Austin’s bid and want to give others an opportunity to be part of this movement,” Craven said. “That’s why we’re reaching out to the best fan base in the world: Who better than SPAM lovers to make the Internet safe for SPAM products again?”

Source: Hormel Foods Corp.