The American Elk Products Board was formed to promote American elk products world wide. They were formed by a group of farsighted NAEBA members to take advantage of United States funding available through the USDA. Since then the AEPB has grown, now represents 17 states, and is becoming the marketing arm of the US elk industry.
As such, they are ahead of most industries this age in their development of the Elk Quality Assurance Program. A quality assurance program provides a solid foundation for any industry by spelling out good management practices and providing assurances to consumers that they are receiving safe products of high quality.
To find out more about the requirements for joining the program, check out their web site at www.aepb.org.
The program requires that producers sign certification statements attesting to their management practices and allowing the AEPB to conduct an audit or inspection of their operation. It costs $150 annually. In return, producers get the following:
- Advertising and exposure - contact information for each producer is published at the AEPB web site. Members are listed in all group advertising.
- Leads - all leads received by the AEPB are immediately forwarded via email to EQAP participants. These leads currently arrive at the rate of 2 or 3 per week and include requests for all manner of elk products: velvet, hides, meat, ivories, antlers, even animals. Those without email receive a monthly list of leads.
- Documents detailing the Current Good Management Practices for elk - a concise yet thorough document that provides details about how to manage elk to insure quality product and to protect the animals and raise them with dignity and without harm.
- The AEPB this week announced its intention to add a monthly e-newsletter to its list of services. The newsletter will provide useful info from the industry, from the government, etc. EQAP participants were kept fully informed of the circumstances of the recent Korean ban on velvet and kept up to date with breaking developments.
- Several vendors announced at the recent NAEBA convention that they will now be purchasing raw products (velvet & meat) ONLY from producers that participate in the Elk Quality Assurance Program.
- Each producer participant receives permission to use the Quality Seal to help market their farm, their animals, and their raw products. Similarly, velvet processors that meet the standards and participate in the program may display this seal on each bottle of velvet. It is a "Seal of Approval" for the American elk industry. Meat processors will also be able to use this visual sign that their products are safe and of the highest quality.
Consumer and Vendor Confidence
- Producer participants must be disease free and must participate in a CWD monitoring program. Their participation in the program and the displaying of the Quality Seal will reassure vendors and end consumers that they are safe when they buy from these producers.
- Ethical standards of harvest and animal husbandry are followed by EQAP participants.
- Producers are provided with Current Good Management Practices for elk. By signing their assurance statements, they are bound to follow those practices. Many consumers are concerned that animals are not harmed in our operations. These standards provide that assurance.
- Grading systems and standards for both meat and velvet have been established in this plan.
- The AEPB recently initiated trace back procedures for EQAP participant velvet. All producers that are members of the program before the start of the 2001 velvet season will receive tags that clearly identify their velvet with the AEPB Quality Seal. Each stick will be individually capable of being traced back to the producer. This capability will be increasingly required by our customers. Indications are that this will be required for American velvet before Korea will lift the ban on velvet importation into their country.
Shield Against Disease and Negative Publicity
- When critics squawk about CWD or velvet harvest procedures, EQAP participants can produce the requirements of the program that clearly demonstrates that they are following stringent guidelines.
- The AEPB is currently putting the final touches on a new quality standard for enclosure harvest operations. Based upon the recent attacks against hunting ranches in Montana and some other states, they decided that it was time to become proactive, define the appropriate parameters for enclosure harvest, and protect those that provide ethical hunts. Not all operations may be able to qualify for the program.
A FACE in Asia
- The American Elk Products Board is working with Korean officials to lift the ban on American velvet. The Elk Quality Assurance Plan is key to that success.
To find out more about the program, email your questions to email@example.com. When you are ready to join the program, send your $150 check to:
American Elk Products Board
541 West 98th Street, #309
Bloomington, MN 55420-4780