Where's the Beef? A Supply Chain Tale …

While I pride myself on cooking from basic ingredients as much as possible, more often than not the demands of a family and career necessitate serving at least one prepared item at most family meals. Given this, it's good to know the level of tracking and visibility that food makers have into their supply chain (registration and subscription required). According to the above-linked Wall Street Journal article, "As food makers scramble to comply with the nation's largest beef recall, their system of data collection -- which can trace the origin of the contents in its products down to the individual can -- is being put to the test." But the results, so far, are giving them a passing mark. General Mill's, who had to recall one soup containing meatballs tied to the tainted meat, is the most impressive of all.

According to the article, when the news of the beef recall hit, "A team of five people also began reviewing a list of suppliers to see whether any were customers of Hallmark/Westland [the meat packer at the center of the recall]. They found just one -- and that supplier, whose identity the company wouldn't reveal, sells only meatballs to General Mills. General Mills' supplier knew from its records that it had purchased beef from Hallmark/Westland only during a two-month window in late 2007." Then, "General Mills' sourcing department, which keeps detailed records on every purchase from a vendor, was then able to zoom in on its records from that two-month window," and discovered that the meat in question had made it into a single type of soup. What's the lesson in all of this? Clearly, all food makers should be able to answer the proverbial question when it comes to supply visibility: where's the beef?

- Jason Busch

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