Takin’ it to Tennessee

The American Meat Institute’s Annual Convention and Innovation Showcase features an extensive and timely education program.
The American Meat Institute (AMI) Annual Convention and Innovation Showcase takes place September 30 to October 2 at Nashville’s Gaylord Opryland Hotel. This year’s event focuses on current consumer trends with a special education track, Consumers: Changes and Challenges that will examine the forces impacting consumers attitudes and behavior and how processors can respond effectively.
The focal point of this education track will be the session, Health vs. Hype: An Overview of Nutrition and Diet Strategies, which examines the realities of current popular diets. Speakers will explain what low-carb, high-fiber, and low-calorie means to the meat and poultry industries. In addition to information from Dr. Susan Finn, chair of the American Council for Fitness and Nutrition, Michael Uetz of Uetz Enterprises will present new data from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA).
Other sessions in the Consumers track include:
• Understanding Consumer Confidence and Behavior, Friday, October 1, 8:30 to 10:00 a.m. Speakers will examine consumer confidence analysis. Rick McCarty, executive director for issues management at NCBA will discuss why confidence has remained strong, and how and why consumers react the way they do.
• Foodborne Illness and Bacterial Reduction, Friday, October 1, 3 to 5:30 p.m. Scientists will discuss foodborne illness and pathogenic trends of meat and poultry products and the defenses used to combat them. Dr. Kristin Holt, FSIS liaison to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), is a featured speaker.
On the topic of consumer strategies, Harry Balzer, vice president of NPD Group, a Rosemont, IL-based consumer research firm, serves as AMI’s keynote speaker on Thursday, Sept. 30.
“Always lively and engaging, Balzer turns conventional wisdom on its ear using comprehensive data that offers a compelling look at new trends,” reads an AMI release touting Balzer’s appearance. Balzer has received an award from Self Magazine for being one of 25 people in the United States who have changed the way we eat, cook, and think about food in America. He was also named a Rising Star by Restaurant Hospitality Magazine. 
“Be prepared to shed your long-held beliefs about the consumer during this general session,” says Janet Riley, AMI’s senior vice president of public affairs and professional development. “Harry Balzer will offer insights gathered from one of the most comprehensive data collections available.”
Moving from the consumer to scientific advancements and how it relates to the world’s food supply, the following day’s (October 1) keynote speaker is Dennis Avery of the Hudson Institute. Avery’s address, Feeding The World: The Promise and Political Perils of Biotechnology, separates biotechnology myth from reality.
Avery serves as the director of Center for Global Food Issues, a project of the Hudson Institute that conducts research and analysis of agriculture and the environmental concerns surrounding food and fiber production. Avery has served as an agricultural analyst for the U.S. Department of State, where he was responsible for assessing the foreign-policy implications of food and farming developments worldwide. Avery also writes a weekly nationally syndicated newspaper column, and he appears on a variety of different television and radio programs. Most recently, Avery debated a representative of the Center for Science in the Public Interest on National Public Radio about the safety of the U.S. food supply.
Running concurrently with the AMI show is the annual Meat Industry Research Conference (MIRC). The 2004 MIRC, co-hosted by the American Meat Institute Foundation (AMIF) and the American Meat Science Association (AMSA), will provide a forum for industry experts to address current areas of interest including food safety, traceability issues, quality, and consistency. Highlights from this year’s MIRC include:
• Research update on foodborne pathogens — Dr. Kathy Glass, University of Wisconsin, will provide an update on results from an AMIF-funded research project, and Dr. Mohammad Koohmaraie of USDA’s Meat Animal Research Center, who will update attendees on the latest food-safety initiatives to control pathogens on cattle and beef.
• Animal identification and traceability — Paul Clayton, vice president of export services for the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), and Dr. Andrezej Sosnicki, food and consumer science director for Pig Improvement Company Inc., will discuss the value of traceability from a consumer and international perspective.
• Meat product quality and consistency — Anna Mae Jones, sensory analyst for Wegmans Food Markets, discusses how some companies are using sensory analysis techniques to enhance product offerings.
• Labeling initiatives — Robert Hibbert of McDermott Will and Emery, provides an overview of the host of new labeling initiatives on the horizon.
Sanitary design
New to this year’s show is a seminar on how sanitary facility design can enhance food safety. Slated for Wednesday, September 29, the Facility Sanitary Design Seminar will detail the eleven principles of sanitary design developed by a special AMI Foundation Facility Design Task Force.
The seminar will feature leading processors including Hormel, Sara Lee, and Tyson, as well as leading architectural and engineering firms in the United States, who will discuss the principles and underlying criteria for sanitary design of facilities during renovation, remodeling, and/or new construction. The seminar is designed for corporate and plant personnel, architecture and engineering professionals, and contracting professionals involved in building or remodeling food establishments.
“This seminar is a compilation of input from a very knowledgeable group of design professionals from the food and architectural/engineering industries,” says Dr. Skip Seward, the AMI staff coordinator for the task force. “The principles established by the AMI Facility Sanitary Design Task Force will help all those involved in renovation, remodeling and new construction to optimize long-lasting benefits from sanitary design.”
Between the sanitary design seminar, MIRC, and consumer-based education track, AMI has gone out of its way to ensure that there is a session for everyone. See you in Tennessee! NP
For more information, phone AMI at 703/841-8400, or visit www.meatami.com