His beef with the state Board of Livestock (BOL) is far from over, but Project Meats owner Shane Flowers is very impressed with the action the board took last week in Helena during a hearing on his appeal. The family owned business is located in Shepherd.
The board appointed a committee of BOL members and meat processors to help retool the state inspection process for meat processing plants like Project Meats by the Montana Meat & Poultry Inspection Bureau.
“We felt like that was a pretty good win,” Flowers said. “There’s a huge issue here.”
The “huge issue” is how meat processing facilities like Project Meats are inspected. Earlier this year, an inspector said Project Meats failed for provide sufficient documentation of its jerk processing and issued a recall for Project Meat jerky.
Flowers appealed the recall and maintains that the jerky his company produces is safe for consumers. He said last week the board did not rule on his appeal, or a similar one filed by Pioneer Meats in Big Timber. That appeal will likely go to a District Court hearing process, Flowers said.
But he was glad for the chance to testify before the Board of Livestock.
“The board was very accommodating in allowing us to speak,” he said.
Flowers said the board also placed the inspection division under the direction of State Veterinarian Marty Zaluski, an encouraging development because it forms a scientific foundation for the inspection process.
Flowers said it’s also important that any recall needs more review, such as by a committee. He believes under the current system, “one person can make a decision to damage a business” in other cases that are “unfounded just as well as this is.”
Project Meat resumed jerky production and sales, as did other Montana meat processors in similar circumstances, Flowers said.
“We’re business as usual,” Flowers said. “We’re still processing.”
But “Project Meats is seeking damages. It’s greatly affected our business” and he’s worried future similar recalls or other actions stemming from inspections could “continue to wreak havoc on small businesses.”
The committee is tasked with creating a process that is fairer and with more oversight, which Flowers thinks is a good start.
“To have them form a committee and have us be on there,” he said, “we feel really good.”