Meat+Poultry - October 2018 - 17

Rachel Hopper -


onsumers increasingly want to
know how their food is produced.
When it comes to beef, they want to
know how animals are cared for - they want
guarantees that it is safe and that it has been
produced in an environmentally sustainable
way. Until recently, the US beef industry has
not always made the beef production process
as transparent as it could be. Some branded
beef programs offer transparency, but they are
a small fraction of the industry. Beef industry
detractors often use the lack of transparency
as a weapon when targeting beef eating.
However, a new partnership between Tyson
Foods Inc. and the largest feedlot cooperative
in the US is changing the conversation. They
have joined forces to offer the beef industry's
first-ever program that gives consumers
key assurances about the beef they eat. The
program has the potential to reshape the
entire industry.
Tyson Fresh Meats in August became the
first beef processor to license the Progressive
Beef program, a cattle management and
sustainability program for feedlot operators. It
is the largest ever cattle sustainability program.
More than 1 million cattle are currently cared
for annually through the program at certified
feedyards that are primarily located in the
Midwest and Pacific Northwest. The program
helps heighten accountability and transparency
through a verification system that involves
US Dept. of Agriculture-approved auditors,
according to Tyson. The feedlots certified
in the program focus efforts in three areas:
cattle care, food safety and environmental
sustainability. They are verified twice a year.
Now more than ever, consumers are
demanding to know more about the beef
they buy, says Steve Stouffer, president of
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota-based Tyson
Fresh Meats, a division of Tyson Foods. Tyson
wants to not only help its customers answer
questions from consumers but also help the
beef industry address these questions. Tyson
sees an opportunity to lead efforts to more
quickly gain adoption of these proven best
production practices throughout the entire
beef industry, he says.
Tyson knows that by licensing the
Progressive Beef program, it will begin to
reshape how the industry does business, says
Chad Martin, Tyson's senior vice president for

beef. Tyson invites others to join it in raising
the standard so everyone can confidently
address consumers' concerns. The license will
also allow Tyson Fresh Meats to work with
its customers to fulfill a need to offer a beef
program that creates a higher confidence level
for consumers while differentiating themselves
from other beef programs. Beef has an amazing
story to tell and the program will allow Tyson's
customers to do that. The program also aligns
exactly with what Tyson's purpose is as a food
company, he says.

The program's driving force has been feedlot
cooperative The Beef Marketing Group (BMG),
based in Manhattan, Kansas. It designed
the program in 2000 and has grown it into
a quality management systems approach to
beef production with the goal of bringing
transparency and verification to consumers.
BMG offshoot Progressive Beef LLC developed
and currently manages the program. The BMG
has eight feedlot owners and has 325,000 head
of feeding capacity in 18 feedlots in Kansas
and Nebraska. Not in the group but in the
Progressive Beef program are several other
feedlot operators. Their combined feeding
capacity is 400,000.
Tyson and the BMG are keen to see many
more feedlots join the Progressive Beef
program. They want the program to be widely
adopted for the good of the beef industry
and its long-term profitability. Tyson in fact,
consciously decided to license the program
rather than buy it so feedlot operators would
not see it as a packer program, Stouffer says.
Certification of a new feedlot takes eight to
10 months, says John Butler, CEO of the BMG
and Progressive Beef. The cost of becoming
certified varies based on what a feedlot
already has in place. Feedlots that already
have extensive practices in place that address
cattle care, food safety and environmental
sustainability will pay very little. The program
is not a profit center and costs are designed
only to cover the cost of the audits, training
and materials, Butler says.
Becoming certified starts with two internal
audits of a feedlot by Progressive Beef's
three-person audit team and then a third-party
audit. Once certified, a feedlot receives both a
Progressive Beef and a third-party audit once

More than

currently cared
for annually
through the
at certified
feedyards that
are primarily
located in
the Midwest
and Pacific
Northwest. | 10.18 | MEAT+ POULTRY


Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Meat+Poultry - October 2018