Process-Verified Programs: Applications & Value
Verification programs are coming of age, dictated by market and consumer demand.

BILLINGS, MONTANA (July 7, 2005) — An increasingly common thread in value-added products of the future will be that they are verified, Cara Gerken of IMI Global Inc. told attendees at the BIF Producer Applications Committee Meeting on Thursday afternoon ,July 7. “Consumers want to know where their food came from and if it is safe,” said Gerken, who was formerly with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Gerken provided an overview of the different opportunities evolving for quality assurance verification programs. In total, she said process verification provides suppliers the opportunity to assure customers of their ability to provide consistent-quality products and services. Gerken cited USDA’s Process Verification Program (PVP) and Quality Systems Assessment (QSA) as two examples presently available, but she said in the future there will also be third-party vendors who provide similar services.

“The most important aspect of these verification programs is that they allow for managing the system and allow the producer to tell their own story and capture value,” Gerken said.

Examples of attributes presently being verified through different programs include source of origin, age, feeding processes, genetics, livestock handling and/or preconditioning protocols. But in the future Gerken believes the industry will see more people thinking outside the box with their verification systems and offering claims of consistency, satisfaction and even championing meal solutions.

“The brand promise shows integrity. Look for brands to project more specific messages,” she said. “And, given the supercenters of today, verified brands are going to have to lead with quality, not price.”

Looking ahead, Gerken said she predicts that consumers will look for more definition in the verified brands, such as breed of livestock, antibiotic use, geographic regions, etc. But before those details can be pursued, she noted, the industry must start with age and source verification, which have become an urgent issue due to the recent global concern about bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

Especially if the United States wants to regain export market access to Japan, she said, producers will need to have calving records with dates, unique animal identification (ID) for individuals or groups of cattle and the ability to transfer the identity of those cattle to the next owner. These things will require a defined calving season and maintaining records for a minimum of three years, she said.

In preparation for age and source verification protocols, Gerken stated the most important thing that has to be done through the production chain is to preserve the identity of each calf all the way back to the ranch. “It does not need to be fancy,” she said, but a recordkeeping system needs to be put in place by each cow-calf producer.

Fortunately, several breed and state association programs are in place — and emerging — to assist producers in facilitating the animal ID and source and age verification process. Examples in existence include the Southeastern Livestock Network, composed of 10 southeastern states; the Montana Beef Network; as well as the well-known breed programs, including, Certified Hereford Beef, Red Angus Feeder Calf Certification Program and AngusSourceSM. Representatives from each of these programs provided short overviews of their program’s goals and abilities to assist producers with documenting source, age and even genetic verifications.

— by Kindra Gordon, field editor, Angus Productions Inc._© Copyright 2005 Angus Productions Inc.

Editor’s Note: This article was written under contract or by staff of Angus Productions Inc. (API), which claims copyright to this article. It may not be published or distributed without the express permission of Angus Productions Inc. To request reprint permission and guidelines, contact Shauna Rose Hermel, editor, at (816) 383-5270 or