Around the start of the New Year, I was writing a 2013 economic preview for our sister magazine, The National Provisioner. In it, I made mention of a couple of last year’s top news stories — the BPI LFTB/”pink slime” debacle and the massive XL Foods recall in Canada — and how those events could not have been predicted at the start of the year.

“Will some unforeseen controversy sucker-punch the industry when it can least afford it?” I wrote at the time.

Well, how about the meat industry being forced to shut down for two weeks because of budget cuts. Did anyone see that coming? Yet, that was the reality the industry faced as the USDA dealt with the effects of the sequester that has mandated budget cuts across all aspects of U.S. government operations.

As I write this, the crisis seems to have been averted, as Congress managed to re-allocate funds within the USDA and avoid inspector furloughs. Special kudos should go to Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) for drafting that legislation.

Now we can all rest easy, right? Unfortunately, there will always be some upcoming crisis. Mainstream media has targeted “meat glue,” ractopamine and horse meat as potential scandals in the last year or so, but none of them had the traction that lean finely textured beef did. Humane animal handling and gestation crates are always hot topics, and the “meat is murder” crowd probably has undercover packing employees taking videos as you read this.

Unfortunately, it takes just one recall or one negligent processor to start a controversy that has a ripple effect over the entire industry. The best any processor can do is to take care of his or her business and be prepared to react should the meat industry come under fire.

On the bright side, at least we know that there isn’t any horse meat in U.S. hamburgers. Right?


Coming soon: The IP Top 75 Report

The next issue of the Independent Processor will feature our annual Top 75 Report, which tracks leading small and mid-sized meat and poultry processors. If you would like to participate in this year’s edition, please e-mail me or call me at (770) 777-0058, and I will get a form to you. You may also use our online form at