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"Consumers are concerned about health and food safety," said Tom Semke, SVP of sales and marketing for Fulton. "They are asking more questions about where their food comes from and how it was grown. As a meat processor and distributor, we see sustainability as extending the commitment we have to food safety to a broader context of protecting human and environmental health."
To become a Food Alliance Certified processor and distributor, Fulton Provision Company underwent a third-party audit of their facilities that covered a range of concerns.
"With the Food Alliance program, we're sourcing beef from Country Natural Beef ranches that have met standards for animal welfare and environmental management," said Semke. "We're also holding ourselves accountable to meet labor standards and improve environmental performance in our own facilities. And, most importantly, we're documenting performance with third-party audits."
Fulton undergoes a variety of other audits to meet the requirements of customers and its parent company, Sysco Corporation. "The Food Alliance audit covers different ground," said Semke. "It's very comprehensive in terms of social and environmental issues."
"Fulton Provision Company is showing real leadership by getting certified and opening themselves to scrutiny," said Food Alliance Executive Director Scott Exo. "This level of transparency definitely adds value for commercial food buyers and for consumers." Fulton customers clearly agree.
"Bon Appétit Management Company is committed to good food and to sustainability," explains Mark Swenson, Regional Vice President. "We have to work closely with our partner suppliers to achieve both those ends. It means something when a partner like Fulton is willing to take that extra step and get Food Alliance Certified. It gets my attention."
"At Burgerville, we are clear that sustainability is good business, and we're focused on aligning all parts of our company with our values," says Tara Wefers, Chief Development Officer. "We've had a strong partnership with Fulton for 47 years. Their commitment to environmental performance and their work with Food Alliance Certified ranchers are good examples why Fulton fits our values."
Steps that Fulton Provision Company has already taken to reduce its environmental footprint include installing energy efficient lighting with a dimmer system that turns off lights automatically in empty rooms, installing self-closing doors on all coolers, recycling paper, cardboard, steel drums, aluminum, and damaged pallets, using biodiesel in all delivery vehicles, and enforcing minimum tonnage requirements for delivery routes. Fulton also uses recycling water chillers on two packaging machines which prevents clean city water from being pumped into the sewer.
Food Alliance certification requires continual improvement of practices. Fulton's goals for further improving its environmental footprint include adding additional recycling water chillers to packaging machines, replacing older processing machines with more efficient models that will substantially reduce daily power spikes, and recycling packaging film that is currently discarded with waste. Fulton is working with a local Portland company to develop a method for converting solid, inedible fat and trimmings into biodiesel. Fulton is also partnering with Work Force Oregon and Mt. Hood Community College in a pilot program to provide underserved and educationally challenged job seekers with food safety and sanitation skills for careers in food processing.
Food Alliance is a non-profit organization that certifies farms, ranches and food processors for sustainable agricultural and production practices. Businesses that meet Food Alliance's standards, as determined by a third-party site inspection, use certification to make credible claims for social and environmental responsibility, differentiating their products and strengthening their brands.
Food Alliance launched its certification program in 1998 in Portland, Oregon, with a single apple grower selling in three area grocery stores. Today, there are over 275 Food Alliance certified farms and ranches in 18 U.S. states, Canada and Mexico. These producers manage over 5.1 million acres of range and farm land, raising beef, lamb, pork, dairy products, mushrooms, dried beans and lentils, wheat, and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. An increasing number of Food Alliance Certified processed products are also becoming available, including cheeses, baked goods and frozen and canned fruits and vegetables. Food Alliance has offices in Oregon, Minnesota and California.