If you ask the vice president of Sterling Pacific Meat Co., Luis Munoz, about the distributor’s processing facility, he will say it’s state of the art. Some may smirk at a vice president’s vested opinions about his or her own company’s operations, but in the case of Sterling Meats, all one has to do is listen to the experts.
“We visited the Sterling Meats facility and revisited their entire food safety system including their HACCP plans, manufacturing process and sanitation procedures,” explains Dr. James Marsden, a Kansas State University Distinguished Professor and an Underwriters Laboratories scientific advisor. “[We] went point by point to validate that what they were doing on the production line matched up with their written plans. The idea is to identify strengths and weaknesses. But at Sterling, it was pretty much limited to strengths. They have done a great job in developing food safety systems.”
The company plans to push the food safety envelope even further. As a fresh meat distributor, it was one of the first to adopt 21st century PCR technology in-house. The equipment allows Sterling Meats to test samples in its Los Angeles-based facility, which minimizes the food’s exposure to pathogens and bacteria and decreases shipment time – a crucial factor when dealing with short shelf life products.
“What’s next for Sterling Meats is building their awareness of emerging food safety technology,” Marsden says. “We are talking to food manufacturers such as Sterling about these things now so when new technologies become available, Sterling Meats can be one of the first to implement them.”
Sterling Meats’ is committed to premium quality, customization and food safety protocols beyond those required by the USDA. For instance, the company has separate production rooms for each protein it distributes to decrease cross-contamination. It also has a separate space for foods containing allergens and maintains refrigerated shipping and receiving docks. Last year, it replaced its truck fleet to minimize breakdowns and ensure on-time delivery and cold-chain management.
Today, the company is looking ahead at technology that will further reduce bacteria and pathogen exposure as well as protect product integrity and increase shelf life. With the processes it has in place and planned safety upgrades for the future, Munoz says the company is on track to receive its SQF 2000 Revision 7 Level 3 certification, which is the highest level attainable.Being a leader in food safety has led to trust between Sterling Meats and its customers. This trust has fueled the company’s growth and expansion. Sterling is constructing 18,000 square feet of new space for processing and 20,000 square feet of additional refrigerated storage. Sterling also recently purchased a third building across the street from its main plant that it plans to open next year, expanding its cold storage capacity by 90,000 square feet and freeing up those original facilities for more production capability.
“We feel we need to continue expanding, improving and investing to deliver premium customer service, consistent, quality products made fresh daily and the most technologically advanced food safety protocols to our customers – and ultimately the general public who consumes the end products,” Munoz says.