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Use SOPs To Anchor Quality

The car company slogan Where quality is job No. 1 could easily apply to the Border Line Feeders Inc. beef operation in Ceylon, Sask. The community-owned feedlot operation is directed by a board of seven, primarily made up of area producers, and run day-to-day by a team of 12 employees, all with one overriding focus producing high-quality Canadian beef.

A major tool Ryan Thompson, manager, and the team at Border Line have used to develop their culture of quality is the Verified Beef Production (VBP) program.

VBP has played a very important role in establishing our approaches to support our focus on quality, says Thompson. The Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) of the program are the backbone of everything we do. They have provided a foundation that has worked very well for us.

VBP provided a base structure Border Line Feeders built around to develop its quality-focused approach

VBP is a voluntary program aimed at supporting food safety and other benefits of best practices, through the implementation of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). If they wish, producers can also move to the VBP registration stage, which is based on an initial validation audit.

Border Line Feeders is now in its third year as a registered participant in VBP. Since becoming operational in 2005, the company has both won and been a finalist for several of the province s Achievement for Business Excellence Awards including in the categories of investment, new venture, exporting and community involvement and has grown from a 7,300-head into a 12,000-head operation. Good structure and consistency have been the keys to our progress, says Thompson. VBP has been a big part of that.

Building a foundation for success

Thompson points to four key ways the VBP program has benefited the management of Border Line Feeders.

1. Take advantage of an existing model

We re still a relatively new operation, says Thompson. When we were getting started, we saw the program as a base we could use to set up our best practices. It has saved us from having to develop something on our own. It has also given us peace of mind that we re moving forward on solid footing. The operation was able to then look for ways to build on the SOPs in key areas, secure in the knowledge the fundamentals were looked after. We were able to look for areas where we could enhance those and be a little more customized.

2. Keep good records

VBP has a major emphasis on good record-keeping. This is helps guarantee the right protocols are followed by providing written confirmation of what has been done, when, and by whom. For one example, Thompson is particularly impressed with how VBP-based approaches have helped Border Line Feeders manage drug withdrawal times and feed sequencing. These are areas where it can be complex to keep everything in order, but the protocols and records make it simple.

3. Clear approaches anchor teamwork, training

Border Line Feeders does a lot of what Thompson calls cross training within its organization to support teamwork and training. We want an environment where everybody understands and has a good sense of each other s jobs. VBP is a good fit with that approach. The protocols are a good training tool and the record keeping ensures that all procedures are done as they should.

4. Be a good ambassador

Thompson believes the more participation in VBP grows, the more the industry will benefit. You look at everything from food safety to quality control to animal welfare. All of these are getting more attention from the consumer. The VBP program addresses all of these at a base level.

It s not a silver bullet but it s a big step forward, he says. From my perspective, I think it s an excellent place to start and I think if everybody in our industry can get there as a minimum I think we ll be doing very well.

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