For the past several months, a diverse group of representatives from technology companies and the U.S. beef, pork and lamb industries has tackled a critical question related to global access for U.S. meat: What steps can the meat industry take to ensure that the introduction of new production and processing technologies does not interrupt trade?
“The U.S. meat industry is a global leader when it comes to advancements in quality, safety, efficiency and productivity, which is why our products are in such great demand around the world,” said Forrest Roberts, chief executive officer of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). “Our goal as an industry is to adopt new technologies in a manner that is consistent with continuing to grow exports. To meet this objective it is imperative that we continue to work together as an industry in a proactive manner.”
Roberts was recently elected chairman of the Meat Industry International Stewardship Advisory Council (MIISAC), which was formed with exactly this goal in mind. Its primary focus is to foster better communication, coordination, and collaboration at all levels of red meat production, processing and marketing so that new technologies are introduced in a manner that minimizes disruptions in exports without stifling the development of next-generation technologies. Norman Bessac, vice president for international pork sales at Cargill Fresh Meats, was elected MIISAC vice chairman.
To ensure that MIISAC draws upon experience and expertise from a broad range of meat and livestock sectors, it includes representatives from the Cattleman’s Beef Board, NCBA, National Pork Board, National Pork Producers Council, American Lamb Board, the feedgrains sector, meat packing and export trading companies, technology providers, American Meat Institute, North American Meat Association and the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). Roberts and Bessac have appointed working group chairs for operations, strategy, and communications to carry the work of the council forward.
As new technology products are launched into the U.S. market, MIISAC will collaborate with the companies introducing the products to assess the potential benefits and costs of their adoption to the red meat industry and develop strategies for minimizing impediments in export markets that have not approved the technology. Questions addressed in this process could include:
- Do regulatory approvals need to be secured in key international markets?
- How long will this process take?
- Will approval be controversial, and how will this impact consumer confidence?
- Is there an avenue, such as the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CODEX), for establishing an international standard? Which trading partners are likely to adopt a CODEX standard?
- How do we address foreign markets that have no functioning regulatory process?
In carrying out its mandate, MIISAC will not be setting industry policy, nor will it approve or disapprove new technologies.
“The goal is definitely not to serve as a standard-setting or policy-making body, but rather to provide a broad, forward-thinking perspective on how a new technology will impact our industry once it is approved,” Roberts explained.