In the culmination to a long and occasionally embarrassing struggle with both USDA and animal activists, a New Mexico meat plant received federal approval this week to begin operations as a horse meat plant.
Roswell, N.M.-based Valley Meat Co., after compliance with multiple federal requirements, and after filing a lawsuit charging that USDA was dragging its feet on approval, was notified that the department is indeed legally compelled to assign meat inspectors to the plant, allowing Valley Meat to become the first packing plant allowed to slaughter horses since Congress banned such operations in 2006.
The company quickly issued a statement touting its victory.
“Today, Valley Meat Company received its Grant of Inspection from USDA FSIS to process equine animals at its Roswell facility. Valley will now begin final preparation to hire 40 to 100 employees over the coming weeks and months so that they may go to work providing a humanely harvested, safe, legally compliant product to the world markets. Valley looks forward to working cooperatively with USDA FSIS to ensure that all applicable laws and regulations are followed.”
Let me help with that statement.
First of all, stop bragging about “looking forward” to working with the government to “ensure that all laws are followed.” No, no, no.
You’re in the meat business. You already know what the laws are—or at least you should. Your goal isn’t to “partner” with some agency to see if, together, the two of you can find a way to follow the rules. C’mon. That’s like saying, “I just signed a lease on a brand new car, and now I’m looking forward to working cooperatively with law enforcement to ensure that all applicable traffic laws are followed.”
Yes, I understand that if you’re running a business, creating a cooperative relationship with a regulatory agency is vastly preferable to the alternative. However, as far as the public is concerned—and PR statements are ultimately designed for public consumption—the USDA inspector isn’t stationed in the plant to explore cooperative relationships with management, but to make sure the final food product being produced is safe and sanitary.
A more effective way to communicate an organization’s eagerness to be a good, law-abiding corporate citizen is to make the point that internal, company-created rules exceed the minimum standards that government imposes.