No – feed safety shouldn’t be a priority
I will be the first to admit. This is not exactly the kind of title you would expect to see above one of my first blogs. But as they say, let’s not judge a book (or a blog, for that matter) by its cover. At least I didn’t when, years ago, I bought Frank Yiannas’ book Food Safety Culture. Creating a Behavior-Based Food Safety Management System (Springer, 2008). The plain cover was clearly not created with any design awards in mind, and to my knowledge, the book never came close to making The New York Times bestseller list. It did became however, an immediate favorite of this Dutch feed safety enthusiast. Especially because what’s on page 14. ‘Safety is a value and not a priority’, Yiannas wrote. ‘Priorities change, values should not.’
Sometimes you read something you’ve always known and felt yourself, but you never got to articulate it in a clear and eloquent way. This was one of those instances. For years it was a central and recurring theme in my meetings and discussions with feed producing companies: how can feed safety become the number one priority for every company in the feed chain? The answer, it turned out, was to not make it a priority at all. You may start a day with certain priorities, but end up with complete others, because of certain unforeseen situations, like severe weather, skyrocketing product prices, or the bankruptcy of a trusted supplier. Or, more often, things way more trivial than that.
Impossible to ignore
This doesn’t apply to core values. While a priority is defined as something that is regarded as more important than others, a core value is a principle. Something that’s of central importance cannot easily be ignored or disregarded during difficult times within the company or in the market. The role of a company’s management is crucial. Managers should lead by example. While mistakes could always be made, to have feed safety deeply embedded in your organization as a company value goes a long way in ensuring a safe production. That’s not something you can accomplish by simply making it a priority. Priorities belong in your agenda, values are in your DNA.