In all the news about recalls in the food industry, have you ever wondered how USDA tracks a meat item back to the plant where it was produced? Do your consumer friends want to know where the meat you sell them was harvested and or cut and wrapped? The answer is quite simple although you’ll need to know about the USDA Establishment (EST) Number on food packaging and have access to the USDA web site pdf file that lists all of the harvest and processing plants.
All containers of meat, poultry, and egg products must be labeled with a
USDA mark of inspection and establishment (EST) number, which is assigned to the plant where the product was produced. The pictures above show a typical meat product “EST” number, a poultry product “EST” number and an egg products “EST” number, respectively.
The “EST” number may appear on the package within the USDA mark of inspection like the pictures shown, but it may also appear elsewhere on the exterior of the package container or package labeling (for example on the lid of a can) if shown in a prominent and legible manner. It must also be in a size that is large enough to insure easy visibility and recognition.
Once you find the “EST” number you can go to the USDA web site at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/regulations_&_Policies/Meat_Poultry_Egg_Inspection_Directory/index.asp where both an alphabetical and numerical directory pdf files are located. Since the “EST” number is usually the only information on the package, you’ll want to pull up the numerical directory. Using Adobe Acrobat’s Find in document command you can type in the “EST” number. (Note: I wouldn’t attempt to print out the entire directory as it is several reams of paper.) The direct link to the numerical pdf is: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/PDF/MPI_Directory_by_Est_No_Pgs_1_200.pdf. It is also handy to know the legend for EST numbers.
- G = Egg Product (Example: G1632 or 01632 G)
- I = Import (Example: I271 or 00271 I_
- M = Meat (Example: 19924 or 19924 M – notice that the first example has no letter)
- P = Poultry (Example: P9002 or 09002 P)
- Multiple numbers: Some establishments have more than one “EST” number because they may process more than one type of meat or product. (Example: 13375 M and 13375 P)
Once in the directory you’ll learn not only that several companies do business under several names but you’ll be able to tell what kind of operations they do. For example:
- ID warehouse.
So now you know how USDA can track that meat back to the plant where it was produced and you also know how to tell how “local” at least in terms of harvest and processing your meat is.
The American Meat Institute (AMI) released an updated version of its U.S. Meat Industry at a Glance document and pocket guide to reflect the most recent data available for 2010. It provides the most up-to-date information, facts and figures about U.S. meat and poultry in four areas: production, economic impact, nutrition and trade.
The U.S. Meat Industry at a Glance, 2010 is available electronically on AMI's Web site and can be folded into a pocket-sized guide for ease of use and convenience. The document is available at http://bit.ly/cFrn7b.
Highligts include: Dietary guidlines for meat consumption, beneficial nutrients found in meat, statistics on the value of meat to the US economy, and average US male and female consumption trends. Really neat graph shows that the US spends less on food than any other country in the world.
May 25 2010
After years of hearing sad tales about the slaughterhouse problem, it looks like many people are trying to get it resolved. A fix no longer seems impossible.
The slaughterhouse problem is what small, local meat producers have to contend with when their animals are ready to be killed. The USDA licenses so few slaughterhouses, and the rules for establishing them are so onerous, that humanely raised (if that is the correct term) animals have to be trucked hundreds of miles to considerably less humane commercial facilities to be killed (see added note below). Furthermore, appointments for slaughter must be made many months or years in advance — whether the animals are ready or not.
Perhaps because the USDA has just announced guidelines for mobile slaughter units, lots of people are writing about this problem. Here, for example, is what I ran across just last week:
- Joe Cloud, who works with Joel Salatin, writes about the need for small-scale slaughterhouses in The Atlantic.
- The San Francisco Chronicle reports Joe Cloud’s concerns that USDA regulations will put small slaughterhouses out of business.
- Carolyn Lockwood has a front page story in the San Francisco Chronicle about the worries of operators of small slaughterhouses about safety requirements for microbial testing.
- Christine Muhlke writes in the New York Times magazine about her experience observing a mobile slaughterhouse developed by Glynwood’s Mobile Harvest System.
- Marissa Guggiana, president of Sonoma Direct Meats in Petaluma, CA, says in Edible Marin & Wine Country that “in Northern California, the lack of local slaughtering options is at a crisis point.”
If enough people complain about this problem, the USDA might get moving on it. The guidelines are a good first step.
The guidelines, by the way, are up for public comment. For comments (or attached files with lengthier comments), go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Be sure to include the agency’s name, USDA, and docket number FSIS-2010-0004. Comments must be filed within 60 days.
Added note: the USDA has a new study of “Slaughter availability to small livestock and poultry producers — maps” that tells the story at a glance. Many large regions of the country have limited or no access to slaughterhouses small enough to handle animals from small producers.
In a press release on Thursday, May 21st, USDA said that it wants to help increase the availability of slaughterhouses to serve small livestock and poultry producers. The effort is part of the agency's "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" initiative, which partly seeks to rebuild rural economies and bridge a gap between food producers and consumers.
In a prepared presentation, the USDA shows national maps of livestock production by small farms and the availability of federal inspection slaughter plants. Maps for cattle, sheep, hogs and poultry are shown. USDA defines a small farm as having sales of $250 thousand or less per year.The maps also show the proximity of rendering plants that take offal and deceased livestock - another problem for north coast ranchers. The pdf of the maps is attached.
Not suprising, is the dirth of USDA inspected plants close to Mendocino and Lake Counties. Our meat capacity and feasibility study of the North Coast Region of California already demonstrated this need for our livestock industry to revitalize.
An Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist may have found a way to cut the amount of ammonia produced by cattle. To do it, he's using a key ingredient of the brewer's art: hops.
Cattle, deer, sheep, goats and other ruminant animals depend on a slew of naturally occurring bacteria to aid digestion of grass and other fibrous plants in the first of their four stomach chambers, known as the rumen.
The problem, according to ARS microbiologist Michael Flythe, comes from one group of bacteria, known as hyper-ammonia-producing bacteria (HAB). While other bacteria are helping their bovine hosts convert plant fibers to cud, HABs are breaking down amino acids, a chemical process that produces ammonia and robs the animals of the amino acids they need to build muscle tissue, according to Flythe, who works at the ARS Forage Animal Production Research Unit (FAPRU) in Lexington, Ky.
To make up for lost amino acids, cattle growers have to add expensive and inefficient high-protein supplements to their animals' feed.
According to Flythe, hops can reduce HAB populations. Hops, a natural preservative, were originally added to beer to limit bacterial growth.
Flythe put either dried hops flowers or hops extracts in either cultures of pure HAB or a bacterial mix collected from a live cow's rumen. Both the hops flowers and the extracts inhibited HAB growth and ammonia production.
Flythe also collaborated with FAPRU animal scientist Glen Aiken on a study in which hops had a positive effect on the rumen's volatile fatty acid ratios, which are important to ruminant nutrition.