By: Eric Mittenthal
As we begin to look forward to 2013, I wanted to first look back at 2012 and some of the highlights and successes we’ve seen in the meat and poultry industry. There’s no doubt that overall, 2012 has been a challenging year for the industry. From attacks on lean finely textured beef to an atypical BSE case to a major drought in the Midwest and continued ethanol policy leading to historic feed prices, there has been a lot for us to work on. But we’ve seen a lot of positives that we can build on moving forward into 2013.
Beef Slaughter Video & Updated Animal Welfare Guidelines
As undercover videos by animal rights groups become more common, it is imperative that we tell the true story of how meat processing occurs. With that in mind, in 2012 AMI released a new video narrated by Temple Grandin looking at a beef slaughter plant and what proper animal care and handling looks like. The video has been a huge success. Despite limited promotion, it has more than 28,000 views and has been positively received with 155 “likes” compared to 24 “dislikes” on YouTube. We have also received numerous requests from teachers and college professors looking to use the video as a teaching tool in their classrooms.
In addition to the video, the AMI Foundation also released the 15th anniversary edition of the Animal Care & Handling Guidelines and Audit Guide. The guide has revolutionized the way the meat packing industry handles animals and measures animal welfare based upon simple core criteria. An estimated 95 percent of cattle, pigs and sheep are processed in plants that use the audit program.
In the meat and poultry industry, we don’t just strive to care for the animals we handle; we take care of our workers too. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show significant improvements in worker safety in the industry. The 2011 data released in August 2012, showed an industry record low level of injuries and illnesses for meat and poultry packers and processors with a rate half of what it was a decade ago. In fact, for the first time, our illness and injury rates are better than those BLS calculates for “all manufacturing.”
At the beginning of 2012, we saw some claiming that people were starting to turn away from meat in large amounts. It’s true that because of high feed prices and other factors, consumption of meat is down, but demand remains strong. In fact a look at the data shows that the percentage of vegetarians in the U.S. hasn’t changed in the last decade. We expect that high meat prices will continue into 2013, but are confident that the demand for meat will be as strong as ever.
There were also several highlights related to food safety, so much so that we’re dedicating a whole other post to them. Check back here for part two tomorrow.