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American Association of Meat Processors

Representing American meat

The American Association of Meat Processors (AAMP) has been in operation since 1939 when a group of meat product processors joined together to create a unified voice for the industry. During its inception, the association’s purpose was largely based on providing freezer locker services for meat products. Over time, as industry needs and standards changed, the AAMP grew into a cohesive, representative body for the meat processing sector. Today, it is North America’s largest meat trade organization with a membership of more than 1,500 small and medium-sized meat, poultry and food businesses; slaughterers, packers, processors, wholesalers, in-home food service business, retailers, deli and catering operators, and industry suppliers. This month, The American Business Journal spoke with executive director Jay Wenther to learn about the association’s history, purpose, and future goals.  

Benefits of membership

The AAMP provides invaluable resources for its members. First and foremost, it provides easily understood information and guidelines for issues pertinent to its members, in particular regarding the multiple regulatory issues which may affect the small to medium-sized independent meat processors. The AAMP’s board of directors, made up of 20 members, has general executive powers and jurisdiction of all business of the association. The AAMP also has an affiliation membership that consists of 32 state, regional and provincial meat trade organizations.

The board of directors regularly meet to discuss issues of importance to the industry such as health and safety, immigration, trade, renewable fuels and economic concerns. The association aims to provide up-to-date information on all regulatory changes for its members, and lobby on behalf of them for certain issues. Members can find assistance with process development techniques, product development issues, nutritional labeling, amongst other industry-specific concerns.

The AAMP also provides a method of networking for its members, who are able to meet and discuss the business with others who may be experiencing the same concerns. The experience of working with businesses that face the same concerns and work in the same economic climate often fosters positive partnerships and invaluable collaborative spirit. Every year the association hosts an annual convention where members can attend conferences and workshops on how to maximize profits, showcase their products and network.

Health and safety

Food safety is an important issue to the meat industry, especially with the recent concerns over E. coli, listeria and avian flu. The AAMP works hard to ensure that its members are up-to-date on key issues that pertain to health and safety. Says Wenther, “Food safety is a key core to our association and a key belief to our members. These are family businesses so it’s their livelihood and they have no intention of producing unsafe products.” Meat is heavily inspected and regulated, often on a daily basis, and it can be tricky and time-consuming for members to understand everything—which is precisely where the AAMP becomes an important body. Says Wenther, “Food safety changes and our mentality has to change with it.”

Challenges

The member body of the AAMP consists of primarily small to medium sized businesses—90 per cent of members are family owned and operated businesses, and 70 per cent have less than ten full-time employees. Explains Wenther, “About 95 per cent of the plants in the meat industry are small; large plants represent just five per cent of the volume.” This, however, is often in contrast with regulatory guidelines which are based around a big-business model. Says Wenther, “Regulation is black and white and you have to be in compliance with it [no matter the size of the company]. That’s been a major hurdle for the meat industry in general.” The AAMP is in invaluable resource to its members in this regard, “by looking at the regulation and seeing how it can be institutionalized in a small plant with limited resources, little people and limited finances.” Continues Wenther, “We educate our members directly through newsletters and our website by getting the information out to them so they can be in compliance for inspectors and investigation auditing.”

Economic change and diversification

The AAMP is continually seeking to expand its purpose as the industry continues to shift. Says Wenther, “We are diversifying to see what else we can provide to our membership as businesses consolidate more.”  He notes that during the recent economic downturn many members did well because of strategic diversification; something the association can learn from. Says Wenther, “They are now selling more affordable products and value cuts for more choices and more availability.” The members have changed as the public’s buying habits have shifted with the economy. In the same fashion, the AAMP will continue to find more ways to serve its members as the industry grows and changes.

The AAMP has grown significantly since its beginnings as a frozen locker service. Today, it represents the interests of over 1,500 members and maintains important affiliation memberships with state, regional and provincial meat trade organizations.  Continually updating and diversifying its services, the AAMP is sure to be an important representative voice for many years to come.

www.aamp.com

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