The grand tour
February 20, 2009
by MEAT&POULTRY Staff
What impresses representatives of one of the world’s most meat-productive nations when they visit U.S. plants?
"The big difference between our plants in Denmark and yours in the United States is speed. The speed of production in U.S. plants always impresses foreign visitors," Dr. Erik Bisgaard Madsen, deputy CEO of the Danish Meat Association, told MEATPOULTRY.com following a recent tour of U.S. operations.
He was a member of a team of European meat industry executives who were hosted by the U.S. Meat Export Federation on a four-day visit focusing on pathogen reduction technologies (PRTs) that included tours of JBS’s pork plant in Marshalltown, Iowa, and its PRT verification laboratory, the same company’s headquarters beef plant in Greeley, Colo., as well as visits to Colorado State University, Iowa State University and Birko Corp., a supplier of decontamination and sanitation chemicals to the industry. According to a USMEF announcement on the visit, "For many years, the U.S. meat industry has embraced advances in PRTs to enhance the safety of its products and address many food safety concerns, but a lack of global understanding of certain technologies has created trade barriers in some markets, including the EU."
"U.S. plants run very intensive food-safety programs. The data we saw from those programs was very impressive," Dr. Madsen said. But he noted that the difference in plant speed also underscored a difference in labor. "Are U.S. plants too fast? It’s difficult to say -- in Europe we pay our workers higher salaries and our plants have fewer workers than in U.S. plants. There’s a greater emphasis on automation and robotics here."
The Danish official, who also told MEATPOULTRY.com that a highlight of the visit was an evening meal of U.S. beef, added: "I think it’s always interesting to visit plants in other countries. You always learn something. Our plants in Europe and yours in the U.S. face many of the same challenges, and it’s interesting to learn about different approaches to these same problems, e.g. high food-safety standards are on the agenda in both the US and the Danish meat industry."