Chris Hutton came to the Cattlemen"s Beef Board by the longest route. He was born and raised in Argentina and University-educated in Australia before finding himself in Chicago as President of Sampco, Inc., a JBS Company that imports a hefty menu of beef products. After telling me the company name is an acronym for ‘South American Meat Processing Company," he described their business this way: "We"re part of a worldwide supplier chain, bringing in processed beef products from South America."
"We manage the Hereford brand in the USA, Canada, Caribbean Islands and Southeast Asia. Over 90% of the corned beef imports into the U.S. come from Sampco," he said. "We import canned meats, beef broths and frozen, precooked products that are used for a variety of prepared foods in the U.S. – soups, stews, chili, frozen microwaveable dinners. We"re at the forefront of flexible packaging, too – beef in shelf-stable pouches, for instance."
Hutton was working in Australia when he entered the University of Sydney and picked up a business degree in Agricultural Commerce. During his career he worked at every step along the beef supply chain (cradle to grave – 100% traceability) short of selling beef directly to the consumer. With Sampco, he started as a Senior Trader and Vice President before becoming president in 2011.
He grew up in northeastern Argentina near the Brazil and Paraguay border. "We raised Bos Indicus cattle; they"re better suited for the hotter, more humid climate. We had about 5000 breeding cows and used 300 horses to work our livestock.
Being an importer, not a cattleman, sets him apart from most CBB members. Sampco does pay their share of checkoff dollars, though, earning Sampco a seat at the CBB table. "While we do not experience a direct benefit from the promotional activities of the Board," he said, "we believe strongly in a vibrant, profitable beef industry. Our contribution in checkoff dollars benefits the overall beef industry and that helps us, too."
"It"s important that the beef industry understands its important leadership role in the worldwide market and continues to embrace the critical importance of science and technology in meeting the challenge of feeding a growing world population. The U.S. is a great and very stable marketplace and we are delighted to be a part of it."
Hutton joined CBB is 2012 and is a member of the Convenience Subcommittee, an appointment that makes great use of his working experience. "We want to figure out ways of providing more quality and convenience to the U.S. marketplace," he said.
"Being involved with the Convenience Subcommittee provides me an opportunity to expand my knowledge of industry issues and a greater understanding of how Sampco can create a closer link with the consumer," he said. "It helps us develop and deliver the beef products they want."
As a CBB member Hutton and Sampco get an up close view of the future of the beef industry, too. "With the Shuanghui International Holdings purchase of Smithfield, I think we"re going to see some incredible changes in the beef, pork, poultry and small stock industry," he said. "We need to make sure that beef remains a viable source of quality, affordable protein for consumers to enjoy each and every day, not a once-a-month, luxury good available to only a few."
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Chuck Jolley, a veteran food industry journalist and columnist.