The Tama packing plant reopened earlier this year by a farmer-owned co-op is getting a new C-E-O. Iowa State University professor Gene Rouse will be the head of the Iowa Quality Beef Supply Cooperative but says it’s not a big change from work he’s often done with producers on new beef-processing technology. Rouse says “we know how to feed ’em” in this region of the country and it’s about time cattle producers proud of what they produce put their names on the product. Rouse has worked with big companies including Land-O-Lakes, Hy-Vee and Cub food stores on “branded” products including Iowa-produced meat, and he says the concern over proposals to require Country-of-Origin labeling is overblown.Rouse says that’s what he’s already been doing, not only saying what country meat comes from but what region, and promoting the quality of the Iowa grain-fed meat. COOL, or country-of-origin labeling, is being demanded by some countries in the wake of concerns like last year’s Canadian Mad Cow Disease scare. Some producers and consumer advocates say it’ll drive up prices because of the tracking and labeling required to prove where meat and other foods were produced. Rouse says it’s simply proud producers willing to put their name on a product, and says any new program will have some costs but it simply must be dealt with. Rouse says the Tama packing plant has been reopened with state-of-the-art equipment and now is bringing down its costs and improving yields. Rouse has taught in the college of agriculture at Iowa State for 32 years. He established a new undergrad class about five years ago in value-based marketing of “branded” products, and says if things go well he may even be able to hire some of his former students, and keep them in Iowa. With more than 900 members in a dozen states, the Iowa Quality Beef Supply Cooperative operates the plant in Tama in partnership with American Foods Group.
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