|Needed Standards for a Changing Industry
ASTM Committee F10 on Livestock, Meat, and Poultry Evaluation Systems
by Ray Bjornson
The meat processing industry in the United States is huge, processing
millions of tons of product per year for American consumers. It
is also an industry only recently inundated with a wealth of new
technology for the evaluation of its productnew technology that
must be standardized.
Im often reminded of a quote from Winston Churchill: If you
dont take change by the hand, it will take you by the throat.
Change is what most characterizes todays meat processing industry.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in the year 2000
meat consumption in the United States was 232.9 pounds [105.6
kg] per capita. Based on current population figures this amounts
to the production of something over 1.6 million 18-wheeler loads
of product a year. For all of this, the amount of information
that can be gleaned through technology has grown geometrically
in just a few years.
The formation of Committee F10 on Livestock, Meat, and Poultry Evaluation Systems within ASTM
International will potentially provide many advantages to livestock
and poultry producers, processors, and the USDA to help them cope
with the amount of data generation now common in the industry
and demanded by the consumer.
Just a few years ago, carcass evaluation dealt strictly with weight,
and maybe a subjective visual assessment regarding fat and lean.
Today the list of variables includes weight, percent fat, percent
lean, lean distribution, pH, color, water holding capacity, tenderness,
juiciness, taste, intra-muscular fat, marbling, bacteria counts,
Technology adapted from the field of medicine enables the detection
of these variables. However, when asked how the information is
obtained, often the reply is the computer does it. As most of
us know, this is an unacceptable answer.
Its easy to check a scale, its easy to re-measure with a ruler;
however there is no easy way to explain to the novice how certain
of todays technologies work. This leads to justifiable questions.
Producers may ask how they know that they are being properly paid;
customers may ask how they know the product really has the attributes
packers claim. Questions like these all lead to the need for standards.
When many of us in the meat processing sector first hear the word
standard we get the same feeling as when were told Its time
for you to schedule a dentist appointmentfear!
Historically many of the rules, regulations, and standards that
have been put in place in our industry have been developed by
outsiders, with often limited input from the people who really
understand and run the business. Thats why bringing all interested
parties together under the ASTM structure is so exciting. It gives
everyone a voice, and at the same time we work together as a team
to find solutions that we all can live with.
Committee F10 is comprised of people representing livestock and
poultry producers, meat packers and processors, equipment manufacturers,
USDA, USDAs Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyards Administration,
USDAs Agriculture Marketing Service, the National Institute of
Standards and Technology, several state agriculture departments,
universities, research centers, etc., all working together with
the ASTM process.
This group will work together to develop standards that address
the following areas:
Equipment design specifications;
Checks to see if the equipment is functioning properly;
Device performance criteria;
and will answer the following questions:
Is the device capable of measuring what we want to measure?
Is the device reliable?
Will the device provide repeatable results?
How do we know if the device isnt functioning properly?
What type of audit trail should be required?
What are the user requirements?
What type of user training programs should be set up?
Should operators be certified?
What types of quality assurance programs should be in place?
How do we audit and document that the process is under control?
Can the measurements obtained by the device be used to accurately
predict what we want to know?
Is the prediction based on sound statistical procedures?
Is the sample selection proper?
Is everything thats being done based on sound science?
Under the guidance of the ASTM process, this group will accomplish
its goal. Due to the groups efforts, the industry will ultimately
provide the consumer with better products by putting standards
in place that assure that everyone in the farm-to-market chain
is treated equitably. //
Copyright 2002, ASTM