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USDA GIPSA Supports Standards for Livestock, Meat, and Poultry Evaluating Systems

by John D. Edmond, Jr.

The Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that works to ensure a productive and competitive global marketplace for U.S. agricultural products.

One of GIPSA’s programs, the Packers and Stockyards Programs (P&SP), promotes fair and competitive markets for livestock, meat, and poultry by enforcing the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921. P&SP provides financial protection to producers and promotes fair and competitive markets within its regulatory framework. The other program, Federal Grain Inspection Service, provides the U.S. grain market with federal quality standards and a uniform system for applying them.

The existence of GIPSA as an impartial, third party entity helps ensure a fair and competitive marketing system for all involved in the sale of livestock, meat, poultry, grain, and related products.

To ensure fair business practices and determine if unfair or deceptive practices are occurring, GIPSA continually conducts trade practice investigations of auction markets, livestock dealers and order buyers, slaughtering packers, live poultry dealers, meat brokers, processors, and distributors.

In the last few years, investigations performed by P&SP found discrepancies in the livestock industry that showed a need to develop standards for evaluating devices that are used to determine the value of livestock carcasses. Some industry members have determined that the value of livestock should be based on the quality of the meat as well as the live weight of the animals.

In April 2001, a meeting was held at ASTM International Headquarters in West Conshohocken, Pa. Representatives included the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), various state departments of Weights and Measures, academic institutions, the meat packing industry, and equipment manufacturers. The attendees agreed to initiate the development of new standards for uniformity of beef, pork, and poultry evaluation systems. ASTM Committee F10 on Livestock, Meat and Poultry Evaluating Systems was formed to accomplish this task.

The committee’s standards will cover equipment design resolution, units of measurement, and operator error; device performance repeatability (stability), audit, examination, and tolerances; user requirements such as operation, installation, maintenance, training, and calibration; and predictive accuracy including repeatability, audit, and examination. The development of industry standards will help eliminate the use of electronic evaluation devices that give inconsistent and false readings that would facilitate the perpetration of fraud. //

Copyright 2002, ASTM

John Edmond is the chief of the Trade Practices Branch, Packers and Stockyards Programs, Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture. Edmond is responsible for the development of a national policy for the uniform enforcement of the trade practice provisions of the Packers and Stockyards Act. Edmond is the chairman of new Committee F10.