Industry commentary from the editors of The National Provisioner and Independent Processor. This month, Andy Hanacek warns processors to not take for granted their retail partners’ ability to monitor expired product.

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Complete transcript

Andy Hanacek: Hi, industry friends and welcome to our latest offering from The Editor's Desk video. Now this is a video that either myself or Sam Gazdziak our other editor on staff will be updating monthly for you and we would like to get some feedback and some interaction with you. This month, I want to talk about a recent visit I made to the super market.

Now, for full disclosure, I do just about 90% of the grocery shopping in my family and about 90 to 95% of the cooking for my family, at least for dinner anyway. I was doing my routine grocery shopping for the week about a week ago looking for deli meat for back to school lunches for my wife who is a teacher, just went back to school and my sons who also just went back to school. I had a coupon for pre-packaged deli meat. Who doesn't like coupons?

My wife and kids both love turkey, sliced turkey. Love those on sandwiches. So I picked up the turkey product of this particular brand only to find that it's sell by date had expired. Now I had problems with this supermarket before in terms of expiration dates. But never have I had such a problem. This product was expired eight days prior to my visit. Now, eight days prior is bad enough. But it wasn't just one rogue product that was left on the shelf that no one had purchased. There were six packages of the very same product on the rack that had had that same expiration date on it. When I've had this problem before, obviously, I've turned the product into an employee. So I looked for an employee who happened to be standing right there. I approached her to let her know.

Now, I didn't read her the Riot Act. I understand things happen. But I did make it clear that this product had expired a long time ago. She said, "With all the cuts, cuts, cuts that we've had with the economy being as bad as it has, we just don't have the time to be as vigilant on expiration dates as we used to be." I told her, "I think that everyone would understand about cuts to staffing,” everyone from retail to processing to business in general. Even the government is doing more with less now in days, or at least people claim.

The kicker is there were plenty of employees in the meat department, and they all were very busy, but a lot of the tasks they were performing to me with my consumer hat on didn't seem as important as expired product removal. They were even busy with the product. But they were removing expired ad sales tags from the shelves. Walk in and just pulling those tags right off. Think about that for a second. Think about what it means and what it communicates to the Average Joe shopper watching employees do their thing and then picking up a product like I did.

To that Average Joe, consumer who's not tied into the meat industry like me, it appears that to the store it's more important for them to charge the accurate price than it is for that store to offer a quality safe product, at least as far as expiration dates go. Now, the meat industry as a whole has done a great job of keeping food way safer than ever before. I buy into that. I drink the Kool-Aid. I see it in the works at many of your plants.

But no matter what the meat industry does, what happens if your retailer or food service customers act like this super market did? Or have a strategy like this super market has? Who is really to blame? I know who's to blame, or at least I think I know. But in this particular instance, it doesn't matter. Average Joe consumer is going to blame the brand on the package. Not the one on the receipt that's in the garbage because there were no coupons printed on the back. So what do you think? E-mail me. Join our LinkedIn group, join our Facebook page, look us up on Twitter, or comment on our website. Either way, we want your feedback. And if you're going to be at Pack Expo, look me up. Let's chat. Let's meet and I'll see you next month.