WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The American Berkshire Association has become the first U.S. swine breed organization to earn the department of agriculture’s coveted Process Verified designation for a quality meat delivery system.
The department’s Agricultural Marketing Service granted approval for the 100 percent Pure Berkshire Pork program after a mid-October field audit reviewing program documentation and field operations.
The Berkshire’s Process Verified designation was effective Nov. 14 and is valid through April 14, 2004, when results of a follow-up audit will be completed.
Program’s claims. The ABA’s 100 percent Pure Berkshire Pork program makes three claims:
* All pork under the program label is pure Berkshire pork – the parents of all market animals sold in the program are purebred, pedigreed Berkshires.
* Each day’s production can be traced back to the farms where the pigs were raised.
* All pork is produced according to the Level III Good Production Practices guidelines of the National Pork Board’s Pork Quality Assurance program.
Program rules. Under the ISO 9000-based Process Verified Program rules, the sponsoring organization develops parameters, documentation and forms to track product through the production and processing system, then trains participants.
Third-party auditors from AMS review programs to ensure the program standards are met and the claims are valid.
Development. “It’s taken us nearly two years to develop and implement the program, and then to submit documentation to the USDA and get approval,” explained Mike Hodges of Julian, Neb., president of the Berkshire association board.
“We wanted to make the program meaningful to customers and do-able by Berkshire producers who want to get involved.”
Key to the program was input from customers in Japan, where much of the Berkshire pork is sold.
Japanese consumers place a high value on pork from Berkshires, where the breed is known as “kurobuta,” or “black hogs.”
Expanding. Hodges said the ABA expects to expand the roster of participating Berkshire producers and packer-processor partners at a deliberate pace.
“We need to provide proper training to all parties so we protect this program’s integrity,” Hodges said.
“The USDA requires us to take care with how we implement the program, but we also believe it’s essential so we can deliver the meat quality attributes for which the Berkshire breed is known.”
For more information about the American Berkshire Association, its programs and producers, go to www.americanberkshire.com.
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