Street Talk: A nasty game of chicken


Gordon Food Service, the Wyoming company that may be the largest privately held food service distributor in the U.S., was the target of a media moment staged in Grand Rapids last week by an animal rights group.

Mercy for Animals in Los Angeles flew one of its executives into town and called a news conference at the JW Marriott. There he showed an undercover video — narrated by actress Pamela Anderson — purporting to show chickens being “tortured” at a processing plant in North Carolina.

Of course, Gordon Food Service doesn’t operate any chicken-processing plants, but it does buy prepared chicken that supposedly originates at the plant. Mercy for Animals figures Gordon Food Service is responsible.

Gordon Food Service is identified in the video title, creatively designed to represent smears of blood, as “Gory Food Service.”

GFS did not attend the “news conference” but told the Business Journal it “believes in the humane treatment of animals. As a responsible food service distributor, we take this situation seriously. We have always insisted that our suppliers adhere to all applicable laws and regulations, and meet industry standards within their respective product areas. We will continue to work with our suppliers to ensure they operate responsibly, just as we have for the last 118 years.”, an online trade publication, later reported that a panel of video experts assembled by the nonprofit Center for Food Integrity to study “Gory Food Service” did not agree with the MFA’s interpretation of what is shown.

“I don’t see horrific animal abuse in this video,” said Dr. Chuck Hofacre, a veterinarian with the University of Georgia. “USDA inspectors are on site. If they see abuse, they have authority to stop things.”

“If people want to eat meat, we must kill animals,” he added. “Some of the process isn’t camera-friendly — it’s not pretty. There are systems and processes in place to make sure it’s carried out in a humane manner, and I did not see animal abuse in this video.”

Other members of the expert panel include Dr. Michael Hulet, an animal scientist at Pennsylvania State University, and Dr. Ruth Newberry, an ethicist at Washington State University and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences.

A look at the Mercy for Animals website reveals other intriguing headlines. A panel of expert animal lovers organized at the Business Journal agreed they are most interested in “Rescued Dairy Cow Remembers Stolen Babies, Hides Calf.”

At your service

Local community leaders John and Nancy Kennedy have been selected to receive the first-ever Frederik Meijer Service Above Self Award, given by the Rotary Club of Grand Rapids.

The award is presented in recognition of Fred Meijer, whose philanthropic acts of selfless service left a lasting impact in the lives of others.

“We are honored that the Rotary Club of Grand Rapids has chosen to recognize our family's commitment to service by naming the award after our late father,” Hank Meijer said. “Community service has been deeply imbedded in our hearts due to our parents’ selfless acts of service.”

The Kennedys were selected from a list of nominees from around West Michigan who continually demonstrate community leadership and strive to improve the community.

“John and Nancy Kennedy take a ‘Service Above Self’ approach in everything they do, including their community work,” said Tom Mathison, president of Rotary Club of Grand Rapids. “They have been community leaders through their financial generosity and their intentional involvement in various civic projects and programs.”

John Kennedy is president and CEO of Autocam Medical, which manufactures surgical components and implants for the medical device industry. His community activities include serving on the boards of Lacks Enterprises, Shape Corp., Van Andel Institute, Grand Valley State University, Acton Institute and Grand Rapids University Preparatory Academy.

Nancy Kennedy is a quality analyst at NN Inc. She currently serves on the boards of United Way, Frederik Meijer Gardens Foundation and the Foundation for Catholic Secondary Education.

“There are so many great community servants in West Michigan that it was hard to narrow down the list of nominees,” said Michael Sytsma, who headed up the award selection process for Rotary. “In the end, we were thrilled to select the Kennedys as the first-ever award recipient. They truly live the service-above-self ideals of Rotary.”

The Rotary Club of Grand Rapids’ event to honor the Kennedys takes place March 26 at Grand Rapids Downtown Market.

Fast fifty

The employees of New Products Corp. recently enjoyed a factory-wide breakfast to celebrate Fred Wolf's 50 years with the company.

Wolf started working at New Products March 8, 1965. Along with the hugs and laughter, CEO Cheryl Miller presented him with gifts to mark his anniversary and thank him for his service.

“When I first started, I was working on sprockets and got the machine all jammed up, so they moved me to the safe job of pushing a pencil,” recounts Wolf, who has worked in production tracking ever since.

“Fred has been part of New Products for over half of its 93-year existence,” said Miller. “He has shown tremendous loyalty. He worked many years with my father, Stanley Miller, and now 14 years with me. We have incredible know-how because of the dedication of employees like Fred."

She said Wolf has often joked about his love for New Products, requesting that when he dies, he is duct taped to the wall of his office so he can still be with his friends.

The latest Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the average worker held 11.3 jobs from age 18 to 46. Of the jobs that workers began when they were 18 to 24 years old, 69 percent ended in less than a year and 93 percent ended in less than five years, making Wolf's tenure extremely rare — even more rare in the city of Benton Harbor where the unemployment rate is one of the highest in the country, peaking at 12.4 percent in 2009.

“Fred joins the Half-Century Club as our third 50-year employee. Everyone here just loves him,” Miller said.

A will and a way

Every once in a while it’s good to remember that lawyers do nice things.

Willis Law, in partnership with the Wills for Heroes Foundation, is providing free estate planning services to five officers at the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office. These officers, along with all other first responders, put their lives on the line every day, and Willis Law said it is happy to have the opportunity to “protect those who protect us.”

The Wills for Heroes Foundation was founded shortly after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, by Anthony Hayes, a partner at Nelson Mullins Riley and Scarborough LLP in Columbia, South Carolina.

Since then, the Wills for Heroes program has provided more than 7,000 free estate-planning documents to first responders across the nation.

Attorneys Emily Durham and Shaun Willis brought the Wills for Heroes program to Michigan. This is the second year that Willis Law, with the help of attorney Benjamin J. Herbert, has partnered with Wills for Heroes and the sheriff’s department to provide these pro bono services.

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