August 25, 2005
"We chose the AQS program because it fit our plan to target the high-end, premium value-added salmon business," said Jon Faulkner, managing partner of Kenai Landing Custom Processors. "It is the only program that has credibility. It has uniform program standards in place to ensure objectivity. If you are competing in world markets, the more objective standards you have in place the better."
According to AQS Managing Director, Cheryl Cummings, all processes and procedures at Kenai Landing were audited by AQS to ensure compliance with the program. Under the new AQS plant certification program, a plant first applies for an initial assessment. During this assessment, AQS creates a plan for the plant which highlights improvements or changes that must be made in order to become certified. It is then up to the plant to implement these recommendations. AQS also offers services to help with this process. Once a company believes that its plant meets all of the requirements, they request a certification audit, which is then conducted by AQS. When the plant passes this audit, certification is granted.
The new certification program was developed in response to feedback from processors and fishermen familiar with the AQS system to provide them with a plant certification option. "When AQS started in 2000, it was focused on educating fishermen and processors and showing them how quality could pay off, explained Cummings. "In those days, we provided the inspectors and the training. Now we have participants who understand the benefits, so we wanted to offer a way for them to conduct the AQS quality program themselves, with certification by AQS to maintain its credibility." In addition to Kenai Landing, four other plants have already indicated an interest in becoming certified for the 2006 season and have completed their initial assessments.
Faulkner is pleased with how the AQS program has helped get his new operation off to a good start. "The obvious advantage is that AQS is the quality standard for the Kenai Wild® brand, so we could process for them," he said. "It also lends prestige to a new plant with a new concept," he added. "Having AQS says that we're not a fly-by-night operation and gives us credibility."
More than a fish plant, Kenai Landing incorporates a number of other activities at its facility, including a restaurant and bar, lodging, RV park, theatre, and launch ramp. Tours of the processing plant are given to visitors during the season and incorporate all aspects of salmon processing, including information on the AQS program.
The Alaska Quality Seafood Program (AQS) is working with industry to ensure that the best seafood in the world is also the most consistent and high quality. This voluntary program attracts quality-conscious fishermen, tender operators and processors committed to improving handling procedures and establishing industry-wide, uniform grade standards. The AQS system modifies traditional practices to better meet current needs of seafood buyers, and integrates all harvesting and processing steps under one set of standards.
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