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Casper College’s Doornbos Lecture Series focuses on meat packing industry

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Casper – In the food service and meat packing industry, keeping the consumer happy by addressing quality and safety of products is most important, explained President and CEO of Melotte Distributing, Inc. Harry Melotte at the 11th annual Casper College Doornbos Lecture Series on Feb. 21.
    Melotte Distributing, Inc. is headquartered in Green Bay, Wisc. and is a custom meat processor and wholesale distributer. The company, formed in 1976, focuses on high quality value-added products that are safe and reliable.
    As primary focus of his business, Melotte emphasized meeting the demands of the consumer is most important in the meat industry, and that includes maintaining a safe, quality product.
Food safety priorities
    Recent regulatory changes have required the meat packing industry to test for six more strains of E. coli bacteria, explained Melotte, and the rule will be implemented on June 12.
    To address the growing concerns about bacteria, Melotte began implementing a multi-step intervention system over a year ago. His food safety strategies extend beyond traceability, and all meat that enters his facility is thoroughly cleaned before entering the rest of the plant.
    “We started working on it before they came out with the rule,” said Melotte. “As meat products come in, they are declared unadulterated, and we have to deal with them because they may be contaminated.”
    The company treats all their meat products with an organic wash that is considered the most effective tool for intervention. After looking at potential residues, as well as what concentration is necessary to kill bacteria, Melotte noted that the product allows his facility to eliminate contaminants.
    “This wash literally turns to table salt by the time it is done, and has been considered the most effective,” he added. “It costs over $15,000 per month – or about 1.8 cents per pound – to treat all of the meat before it goes into our plant.”
    “It’s our responsibility to our customer and the people that we deal with everyday to make these food safety efforts,” said Melotte, adding that, in two cases in the last year, the intricate system has stopped a contamination at his door.
    To prevent contamination in the facility, Melotte explain that edible oils are used to drive all belts and lift stations, and the equipment is built by the facility.
    “We have a complete fabrication and metal shop,” he said, adding, “We know what will fit our facilities and what we are doing.”
    He also trains all employees in food safety measures.
    “Every person is trained in food safety, why we do what we do, and the importance of safety,” said Melotte.
Traceability in packing
    “There are only two types of plants – those that have had a recall and those who are going to have one,” said Melotte. “There is nothing in between. It may not be your fault, but some product we obtain may be contaminated.”
    Because food safety is a priority for the meat packing industry and to meet the food safety needs of consumers, he has implemented a complete traceability system. Not only does the system allow Melotte to isolate and track every product that comes out of his facility, he has also allowed that each box is numbered and can be easily traced.
    “We put in a system two years ago that tracks every box by license plate number into production through where it is sold,” said Melotte. “I know which packer and box number everything is in, so if I have breaks in the line, I know where to find it.”
    Melotte added that they system is completely computerized and allows him to locate information on all products within 30 minutes or less.
 Maintaining value
    “Never grind what you can dice, and never dice what you can slice,” said Melotte. “The more intact muscle you have, the more money you can get for it.”
    Melotte also emphasized that current market trends are moving toward premium programs, such as Certified Angus Beef, and it is essential for his business to integrate the value-added component of the industry.
    “We need to be on board with the premium programs – it’s not a wish list,” he emphasized. “We have to commit to it.”
    At the end of the day, Melotte said that selling product to consumers is what is important and it is necessary to maintain the value and quality of products to keep consumers happy.
    “The day I quit looking at market trends is the day I might as well retire,” said Melotte, noting that the industry is driven entirely by “the butts” at the table.
    “The people paying the bill – the butts – are the ones who will determine what you sell,” he explained. “The most important people in the restaurant are the butts, because if they aren’t happy, they probably aren’t coming back.”
    Saige Albert is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at

Selecting beef products
    Harry Melotte of Melotte Distributing, Inc., who spoke at the annual Casper College Doornbos Lecture Series on Feb. 21, explained that segmented programs require an in-plant selection process to isolate the highest quality meat products.
    “We pull all of the upper end carcasses for the premium programs, and they are segmented based on yield grade and marbling,” explained Melotte. “As the animals are selected off, all we have left is Choice.”
    Though Choice is a good option for less expensive products, he noted that those products tend to be more inconsistent.
    He emphasized that his programs feature genotypic verification of cattle for quality, rather than phenotypic. Cattle are evaluated on their genetics and heritage, rather than hide color or other physical features, and the approach allows him to sell a product that grades in the mid to upper 90 percent.
    “Consistency comes from the premium programs,” he said. “They take the gray area out of what you buy.”

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