When Jonathan Hunter and his partners at Underground Meats in Madison, WI, set out to expand their salami business to national retailers, they knew they needed to make some upgrades to their plants to jump from Wisconsin state certification to full-fledged certification with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In theory, certification at the state level meant that the company was most of the way to complying with USDA guidelines. One issue that remained, however, was designing a USDA-compliant Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan, a detailed food-safety and sanitation plan in the form of a document. The government requires that meat plants have HACCP plans in order to ensure the reduced risk of contamination to the products.
Every meat operation and food item is different, and so meat plants have to come up with their own HACCP plans, which often involves hiring a third party to validate or help develop the plan. The time, energy and money put into developing a HACCP plan can be not only complex, but cost-prohibitive for small- and medium-sized plants, Hunter said.
“It can be a huge barrier of entry,” he said.
To help other salami startups clear the hurdle of HACCP development, Underground Meats decided to create the first-ever “open source” HACCP plan for salami plants. The plan will be available for anyone to use as a template that they can tailor to their salami plant for validation, sort of like a free head-start released under the Creative Commons CC0 Domain Dedication.
“My hope is that this will be a template for people to modify to their specific use and say, ‘Hey, we can kill Salmonella or Listeria if we follow these steps,’” Hunter told Food Safety News.
Underground Meats has launched a Kickstarter campaign asking for $40,000 to help them create and share the HACCP plan. As of press time, they are nearly one-quarter of the way to their goal, with 21 days left in the campaign.
Hunter cited a few unlikely sources of inspiration for the idea, including fellow Wisconsin-based food giants Kraft and Oscar Meyer, who have helped share information on food safety practices with the public and other companies in the hope of improving the food safety overall.
“Our interest is not in withholding information,” Hunter said. “If we share it with everyone, we have a safer food system.”
Assuming their supporters offer up at least $40,000 to jump-start the project, Underground Meats will deliver its salami HACCP template to the world, as well as provide instructional videos about salami production on their website. They’re also offering to assist donors at the $489 level with developing their own HACCP plans – a fraction of the cost of hiring a traditional third-party to complete one.
Once they have their own HACCP plan USDA-approved, they want to expand business beyond Wisconsin’s borders and to the Internet, too. But Hunter said Underground Meats isn’t dreaming of salami-based world domination.
“I don’t want to become a large-scale salami maker,” he said. “Artisan products taste better.”© Food Safety News