What happens when the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, American Feed Industry Association and the American Meat Institute join forces to sponsor a trade show for the entire meat industry? With the 2013 International Production and Processing Expo recently concluded, we now know the combination results in a powerful meeting of more than 25,000 minds representing the poultry, meat and feed organizations.

The show’s poultry component, International Poultry Expo (IPE) celebrated its 65th anniversary during this year’s combined trade show. In keeping with the celebratory theme, Sealed Air’s Cryovac food packaging brand focused attention on a milestone anniversary of its own. 2013 marks the 30th anniversary of the brand’s introduction of multi-layer stretch shrink films for tray packaged case ready chicken, and discussions with industry partners and members of the media centered around those films’ impact on protecting poultry and keeping meat cases clean for three decades. The longevity of these products and their success in the marketplace provides evidence of the company’s culture of innovation and the focus on developing packaging solutions that improve operational efficiency, extend shelf life, contribute to food safety and build brands. Many of those recent innovations also were on display for meat and poultry industry leaders to see firsthand.

In addition to utilizing the exhibit floor to celebrate milestones and introduce the latest, most innovative products and technology, more than 1,100 exhibitors had the opportunity to take part in educational programs covering a wide range of industry topics. Sealed Air water efficiency expert Cassie Zwart was among the educational presenters, participating in the show’s Technology Xchange program. Zwart presented to industry leaders on the topic of minimizing water usage in meat and poultry processing facilities, a timely topic due to increased scrutiny on water usage and emphasis by municipalities on enforcing water restrictions and enacting more stringent regulations. 

Zwart discussed Sealed Air’s “Scan,” “Probe” and “Solve” approach to analyzing water usage during the manufacturing process and developing solutions to reduce usage and improve efficiency. These efforts can have a particularly critical impact on companies’ bottom lines when considering that 27 percent of utility costs greater than $12 million and 59 percent of utility costs greater than $1 million in the United States are related to water usage. According to Zwart, the Sealed Air approach first establishes benchmarks for a facility’s water usage, then audits specific processes and activities to determine where efficiencies can be realized. Finally, recommendations for improvement are developed and solutions implemented to conserve water and help facilities achieve cost savings based on efficiency.

Other topics addressed during information sharing sessions included many of the top concerns in the meat and poultry industries. Among these were sustainability, price and cost pressures and the regulatory environment. Technologies such as next generation LED lighting for farms and processing facilities were discussed as alternatives to help reduce both energy usage and costs. FDA official Dr. William Flynn and many university veterinary science experts joined discussions of opportunities to reduce antibiotic resistance by changing the way antimicrobials are administered in animal agriculture settings, resulting in much agreement among attendees that a focus on reducing and/or eliminating usage of antimicrobials of importance to human medicine from farm settings is a prudent approach. 

By combining efforts and creating one of the 50 largest trade shows in the U.S., IPPE was bigger than ever. The still autonomous nature of the three events merged into one, however, still provided individual organizations the opportunity to align programs directly with the independent needs of their members and others with more focused interest in particular industry segments.  By all measures, the first IPPE was a significant success and offered leaders from throughout the meat and poultry industry many opportunities to network, learn and showcase the technologies that will impact the business for years to come.