Oregon beef producer reeling after mad cow scare
The company tries to rebound after losing a major retail customer.
The Associated Press
January 21, 2004
CLACKAMAS — Business as usual at Clackamas-based Interstate Meat ended two days before Christmas.
That was the day that one of the Northwest's largest ground-beef producers learned that it had processed beef from a Washington dairy cow infected with mad cow disease.
Now brothers J.P. and Jerry Meng, still reeling from the return of 250,000 pounds of ground beef and a sharp drop in sales, are trying to rebuild the company their father founded in the 1960s. The company processes more than 50 million pounds of beef each year.
"It's better today than it was yesterday," Vice President J.P. Meng said. "It is better this week than it was last week."
The Mengs keep in touch weekly with the 37 workers who were laid off after the mad cow scare — nearly one-third of Interstate's work force — and hope to eventually bring them all back.
The Mengs said that they learned that their beef was contaminated from a customer who heard it on television.
When the infected meat arrived at their door, they said, it had been inspected twice by the U.S. Department of Agriculture — once before the infected animal was slaughtered and again at a processing plant in Washington.
The company recalled 10,410 pounds of ground beef, but the uncertainty and anxiety surrounding the discovery of mad cow disease in the United States prompted Interstate's customers to send much more meat back to the company, Hickton said.
Interstate's clients included Albertsons, Fred Meyer, Safeway and WinCo Foods, all of which recalled batches of beef that may have contained portions from Interstate. In all, the Mengs returned more than $200,000 to their customers.
Interstate has lost one major retail customer, which it declined to name, and estimates its total losses to be in the high hundreds of thousands of dollars. Officials declined to disclose Interstate's annual revenue but said the company had been growing by 3 percent to 8 percent per year.
Bridget Flanagan, a Safeway spokeswoman, said that representatives of the grocery-store chain toured Interstate after the mad cow disease discovery. She said that Safeway continues to have confidence in the company.
RISKY mad cow beef still being sold in Japan
About 780 tons of beef products containing cow backbones at risk of mad
cow disease infection have been imported to Japan from the United States
since January ...
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