Innovative Livestock Services, Inc.
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Tuesday, May 2 2017 6:30 AM
By Heather Donley

Fulfilling the Dream

Like many good ideas, the plan to form the Beef Marketing Group in 1988 stemmed from a long standing dream. As chairman Lee Borck notes, “The goal was to cooperate in order to add value to our cattle and fulfill the dream of bringing a differentiated beef product to the meat case.” The uncharted waters that Lee, Kenny Knight, and seven other feed yards embarked on that day turned into a multi-decade journey focused on collaboration throughout the entire beef supply chain to ultimately improve beef safety, animal welfare, and sustainability.

As Kenny notes, “It was a big dream. At the time, we had no idea that it would be so hard and take so long to accomplish. Those of us in the Beef Marketing Group were not always popular among our peers as change often brings unease, but we recognized that we needed to drive innovation and think outside of the box in order to remain dedicated to the concept of taking quality beef all of the way to the meat case.”

After the first ten years, the group looked to researchers at Kansas State University to help them develop pre-harvest food safety protocols. From this initiative came the beginning of a system of metrics which created meaningful measurement tools. Heather Donley, a graduate student at Kansas State University, then joined the BMG team and ultimately created the Progressive Beef Quality Management System. Both Lee and Kenny are tremendously proud of the Progressive Beef program and are quick to talk about its’ important role.

“Progressive Beef provided a way for the Beef Marketing Group to let its customers know that we’ve got your back, and will consistently deliver a great tasting and safe beef product. The detailed and comprehensive management plan offers both structure and accountability to our feed yards. We take good care of our animals so that they can take care of us. The Standard Operating Procedures and HACCP requirements combined with the auditing and scoring component of the program lend verification to our promise to the families that choose to put our beef on their dinner table”.

It is one thing to say that you do the right thing, Progressive Beef takes that statement to a new level as it provides a road map for excellent animal welfare and a dedication to sustainably produced beef. Balancing the commitment to people, animals and planet provides a challenging business environment. Progressive Beef plays a vital role in bringing integrity to the way that we grow food. Lee is quick to note, “We have Heather to thank for Progressive Beef. She has dedicated her life to turning our vision of quality into an effective and practical plan. And, she holds us accountable to it!”

John Butler joined the Beef Marketing Group as CEO in 2005 bringing a valuable background in supply chain management. He quickly went to work building the bridge from the farm to the meat case. John remarks, “It was my job to make Lee and Kenny’s vision become the vision of others. I knew that we needed to understand the people that purchased our product, so I went to work figuring out how to do that. Progressive Beef gave us a terrific tool to create transparency and build trust.”

An ensuing partnership with Performance Food Group provided the vehicle to initially realize the dream through the brand Braveheart Black Angus Beef. What began with a few Progressive Beef verified animals and PFG’s Path Proven meat traceability technology evolved into one of the fastest growing value added beef lines sold in food service. Last year, the original Braveheart brand with its “fearless commitment to quality” expanded to include an additional line of Path Proven Certified Angus Beef, and will soon include a new brand called Surety Beef as Progressive Beef’s promise of quality care expands to include beef from a myriad of cattle breeds.

Perhaps the most personal sign of the Beef Marketing Group’s success can be found on the menu at Harry’s Restaurant in Manhattan, Kansas.  Owner Evan Grier boasts that the best restaurant in Manhattan now serves the best beef grown in Kansas! Always careful to protect his image of a quality eating experience, Evan notes that “I need a consistently tender and great tasting steak. Braveheart delivers that in addition to telling the story behind that steak.” It brings a very meaningful sense of pride to both Lee and Kenny to sit down at their favorite restaurant and be served a delicious steak dinner that is grown on their own farms.

“We’ve always known that right was right and wrong was wrong and refused to ever cut corners on the journey. Our dream became legitimate and meaningful because it was based on integrity. It took a lot of years to fulfill the dream, but our success rests on a solid foundation because it is rooted in our character and commitment to integrity.” Kenny Knight






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Innovative Livestock Services, Inc.

Innovative Livestock Services

2006 Broadway Avenue
Great Bend, KS 67530

(620) 793-9200

4805 Vue du Lac
Manhattan, KS 66503

(785) 587-9700

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