Many involved in the beef, beer or fresh produce industry equate the concept of food safety directly to the Birko Corp. It’s a good call for them, and as it turns out it’s a good story for the rest of us. Started in a Utah garage 60 years ago, Birko is the rare family-owned company that has managed to transfer ownership down to the third generation, largely through the wisdom of a grandmother who mentored a granddaughter for future leadership. But also unlike thousands of other companies that died of “entrepreneur’s disease” by not knowing when to bring in outside management, the now Henderson, CO-based Birko did bring in “outsider” Mark Swanson as chief executive officer. Swanson joined Birko after working for such industry giants as Iowa Beef Processors, ConAgra Foods and Swift & Co. Swanson is a frequent speaker around the country on food safety issues. The granddaughter, 36-year old Kelly Green, is Chairman of the Board and VP for new business development. Birko has been a woman-owned business since 1978, and today Kelly Green is that woman. She spends a lot of time working on the safety of the food chain and on protein’s role in fighting world hunger. This inside-outside combination led Birko to a strategic expansion when in August 2011 it acquired Kansas-based Chad Co., which brought it a harvesting and processing equipment unit. In July of 2011, Green was one of two women on the National Meat Association’s Board of Directors when it merged with the North American Meat Processors Association to become the North American Meat Association (NAMA). Barry Carpenter, NAMA’s chief executive officer, speaking at Birko’s recent 60th anniversary celebration at the Denver Aquarium said Birko has been “THE leader” in food safety intervention technology for the past 60 years. Started by Florence Smith Powers and her husband Ward in an Ogden, Utah garage in 1953, Birko’s first products were alkaline cleaners and tripe wash used in federally inspected meat plants. “In 2001,” Carpenter said, “the year Florence retired from her position as CEO and Chair, National Meat Association presented Birko with its Supplier of the Century award. A very surprised Florence graciously accepted.” “In making this selection, NMA looked for a supplier that had durability and had served our industry with excellence over the years, Birko was that company,” Carpenter said. “Florence was an astute businesswoman who knew how to make things work and knew how to make things happen.” Carpenter said Florence “broke the mold” in the 1980s at a time when “this was a male dominated industry.” He said she mentored her granddaughter, Kelly, and “showed her the ropes of this industry.” “Birko has always been helpful to the industry as a supplier and in sharing food safety knowledge,” said Carpenter, himself a former USDA official. Carpenter said the Birko purchase of Chad has allowed it to analyze the chemicals meat and poultry processors are using for processing, sanitation and further processing to make the best equipment choices. The expanded Birko is also able to fully integrate food safety solutions to help processors meet Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) and SSOP standards, providing employee training in proper sanitation practices and chemical safety procedures. “It allows Birko to recommend specific interventions and methods that can help plants optimize their food safety processes while mitigating the growth and spread of foodborne pathogens during production and packaging,” Carpenter added. Currently listed as the 60th largest privately held company in Colorado by ColoradoBiz magazine, Carpenter said Birko is known for its several laboratory facilities, including Class 2 pathogen labs, and its work the outside universities on studies to develop applications that can help food plants meet food safety requirements. It’s best-known antimicrobial processing aids are known as Beefxide ™ and Porkxide™ . “The data through this research showed that both are effective as antimicrobial interventions for reducing microbial numbers on intact beef and pork carcasses,” said Carpenter. He credits Birko with the meat industry’s success in pathogen reduction, and processors increasing their focus on food safety. Carpenter challenged Birko to continue its “creativity, dedication, and hard work” because science is improving its ability to monitor and track foodborne illnesses and there will be a continued need to assure export markets of food safety.