Creekstone's Testing Gambit Is A Good PR Move

Creekstone has become the darling of the anti-packer, anti-USDA, anti-cattlemen crowd -- simply by defying USDA. The initial confrontation was over 100% testing for BSE, and one has to give Creekstone credit. It was a beautiful marketing ploy, though Creekstone knew all along USDA could never throw the rest of the industry under the bus in order to give it a competitive advantage.

I was torn. I understand USDA must remain scientifically based, and has to do what's in the best interest of the entire industry. Still, I liked Creekstone's message -- a company fighting for a competitive advantage it thought would not only allow it into the market more quickly but help it keep market share from the other packers once trade was re-established.

Both Creekstone and USDA were doing what was in the best interest of their constituents. Their positions weren't only justifiable but admirable.

Well, if the Creekstone move scored public-relations (PR) points the first time, why not try it again? And that's exactly what Creekstone is now doing -- this time arguing that USDA cede its authority to the South Korean government to inspect and certify U.S. plants for export.

South Korea knew USDA would never cede its authority because it would essentially be admitting the U.S. system was ineffective. It would also set a precedent making it possible for the U.S. to one day have inspectors from 45 or so different countries running around inspecting U.S. plants, setting up their own rules, and determining which plants were eligible to ship product.

I admire the entrepreneurial, capitalistic, free-market, and the customer-first aspects of Creekstone's argument. It's obvious Creekstone's strategy has one goal -- to advance its position in the Asian market for the time when trade is re-established. But USDA simply must follow the science and what's in the industry's best long-term interest. USDA has no alternative.
-- Troy Marshall