We are excited to share our thoughts about United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) certification in our food division at MacFarlane Pheasants, Inc. and our processing plant, Twin Cities Pack! Our pheasant food products have always been state certified, but markets outside the United States require USDA certification, and it has been our goal to broaden our sales to new markets. Though the process for certification was lengthy (2 years), the transition to USDA inspection has been seamless.
Our inspector is forthcoming and our business relationship is positive and pleasant. The USDA inspectors are not “out to get you.” In fact, it is quite the opposite. They are simply enforcing codes that directly relate to the safety of the consumer, and we work together to make sure our products are top-notch!
While the inspector may infrequently find a deviation, he more often offers suggestions that can increase our safety and productivity. We believe this is important because it means he is taking an active role in ensuring not only our safety but also our viability in the food division. If the inspector simply found things wrong and had us correct the problems, he would, without question, be doing his job. But offering advice and instruction illustrates a willingness and commitment to keeping us in compliance and helping us advance!
The USDA Food Inspection Process
The USDA certification is an easy and positive experience for us. The USDA inspector, who visits our facility daily, performs these tasks:
- Inspects the facility for anything out of the ordinary, such as defective equipment or environmental hazards
- Inspects the production process
- Inspects the shipping department and packaging process
- Makes recommendations
Standard Operating Procedures
We also have Standard Operating Procedures (SSOPs) in the food division. Like most departments that incorporate SSOPs into their business, the procedures are contained in a binder and are vast and detailed. The most current plan was written by a former food products manager. It is updated as needed. Other than self-policing, it is part of the USDA inspector’s job to enforce SSOPs.
In general, there are SSOPs in our department regarding:
- Employee hygiene
- Chemical use
- Cooler and freezer temp checks
- Equipment calibration
- Receiving and storage of poultry products
Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points Plan
We also follow a mandated Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points Plan (HACCP) that has always been part of our business. USDA inspectors make sure we follow our 5-part plan:
- The first part of the plan lists the type of processing we do, the common name of our products, how the product will be used, the type of packaging, shelf life, where it will be sold, labeling instructions, and special distribution controls.
- The second part shows a flow diagram of the product from the receiving of raw goods to the storage of the finished product.
- The third part shows a hazard analysis.
- The fourth part shows the plan for production.
- The fifth part shows corrective actions for deviations in the plan.
Food preparation hasn’t changed in our food division. The operations are the same as when the products were state inspected. The only real change in our process is that our packaging now has the mark of USDA inspection instead of the state inspection mark, and we can market our products to a much wider market.
If you’re interested in hearing more about our safety measures and inspections, contact Shayne Noller at MacFarlane Pheasants.