While writing about humane animal handling in this month’s issue, I was trying to think of another industry where the actions of one company reflected badly on the whole industry. For example, Toyota has had some major recalls within the last year, yet I don’t know of anyone who gave up driving their Ford in protest. I do know people, though, who gave up meat completely because of the Westland-Hallmark case, or a similar animal abuse story.

Perhaps those events remind people that the meat industry is built on the death of animals, and if you want to enjoy a steak tonight, some cow had to die for it. It’s an uncomfortable truth for some, and that could be why the industry has kept that particular part of the process under wraps. Unfortunately, it’s been kept under wraps for so long that it looks like the industry has something to hide, and now the only time that people think about slaughterhouses is when they see a video from PETA or HSUS documenting animal abuse. We, as an industry, have let the enemy tell our story the way they want it told. There’s a reason why the animal rights groups don’t release undercover videos of slaughterhouses where everything is well-regulated and the animals are treated humanely.

Having been on the defensive for so long, is it possible for the meat industry to go on the offense? The overwhelming majority of companies in the industry treat their live animals humanely; there has to be some way to get that fact out, so consumers hear more than the PETA horror stories.

It’s too bad that it took an HBO movie with a star like Claire Danes to get Temple Grandin some recognition in the public eye. She should have been a household name years ago, and the meat industry should have showcased her work as an example of how the industry cares. Packers with holding areas build to her specifications should promote that fact and talk about all the little things the handlers do to ensure no animals suffer needlessly. There is a whole other side of the story that must be told.

Orders of business

There are two upcoming events of interest to our IP readers. Coming in April is the Food Safety Summit in Washington D.C. If you want to learn about the latest and greatest ways to keep your food safe and your company out of harm’s way, this is the place to be. The event is scheduled from April 19-21; go to www.foodsafetysummit.com for more information.

The next is IP’s annual Top 75 Report, coming this spring. If you’ve given us information in the past, or if you want to get your company added to our list of top small and midsized meat processors, we need to hear from you. You can find the entry form on page 24 or online at www.provisioneronline.com. Or, e-mail me at gazdziaks@bnpmedia.com, and I can fax or e-mail you a form.