A recent recall for jerky products produced and packaged by the Huntley-based company S&T Project Meats and Ranch House Meats led to a discussion Thursday on the issue with Yellowstone County officials, the state Department of Livestock and meat processors.
Shane Flowers, owner of S&T Project Meats, turned to Yellowstone County for help on what steps to take to solve the problem, telling Commission Chairman John Ostlund in a letter he feels the recall was unfair to his business.
Ostlund placed the matter on the commission’s agenda for its Thursday discussion meeting.
Flowers, along with other processors, local public health officials, an economic development representative from the governor’s office and others participated a more than hourlong discussion.
Mike Honeycutt, executive director of the Montana Department of Livestock, also joined the meeting by conference call.
Honeycutt said he could not discuss the details of S&T’s recall because the company is appealing, but that the agency is open to working with meat processors on the issue and on ways to improve the program and communications.
Honeycutt acknowledged that processors around the state were getting conflicting advice from various levels within the department and its Meat/Poultry Inspection Division. A big concern Honeycutt said he’s heard from processors is that agency officials are “not singing from the same hymnal.”
The DOL’s Board of Livestock also is planning to hold a conference call meeting on May 25 to address the appeal, Honeycutt said.
The DOL is having attorneys prepare a legal review of the appeal issues and make recommendations, he said.
Honeycutt declined to respond to questions from Ostlund and Commissioner Denis Pitman on when or how the recall would be lifted or suspended because of the pending legal review.
Ostlund told Honeycutt that the issue needed to be addressed because of the effect the recall is having on local businesses and the economy.
Ostlund also said S&T Project Meats has butchered and cut meat for him and called the operation “clean and immaculate.”
Flowers said he believes he was denied due process with the recall and that problems with the program are statewide and need to be fixed.
The recall was published on May 5 for all ready-to-eat jerky products produced and packaged by S&T Project Meats between April 10, 2016 and April 10, 2017.
During an inspection, state inspection program personnel requested records for the jerky cooking process and S&T Project Meats said none were available. Because records were unavailable, it was not clear whether the products were safe for human consumption, a press release said.
The company could not provide documentation about whether the humidity, drying time and water activity were monitored when the jerky was made, the release said.
The recall was a Class I recall, which means it is a health hazard situation where it’s possible the jerky will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death.
There have been no reports of illness, the release also said.
Flowers disputed the recall saying his company has an automated system and has had no complaints on its jerky or an illness reported.