Dave Nichols pays tribute to a long-time friend of the beef industry, Marvin J. Walter.
I'm devastated that my friend Marvin J. Walters died June 1, after an eight year struggle with multiple myeloma. The past five years my vacations were spent with Marv. We had already planned two more for this year. Marv was a devout Christian. Last week he half-joking told me that he hoped he was going to heaven. I assured him he was - and if he didn't - at least all his friends would be in hell with him.
Marv never forgot “from whence he came”— a 200 acre livestock farm near Watkins, Iowa. His experiences growing up and working on his family’s farm served him well in the very competitive businesses he’s owned. He planted his roots in Iowa, harnessed its human resources, and improved its infrastructure. His accomplishments were many. His impact was major. His commitment to excellence was unequaled. And his personal integrity and community service are an example for everyone to emulate.
In both words and deeds, he was a splendid example of American entrepreneurship. He’s received accolades and awards from nearly everyone who has ever processed or added value to beef. Less well known— was his critical contribution to improving America’s seed stock.
Starting in the late ’80’s Certified Angus Beef (CAB) was impacting the price of live cattle and high quality beef in retail outlets and restaurants. Scientists at Cornell, Kansas State, and Iowa State Universities were developing real-time ultrasound hardware and software that would accurately predict marbling, rib eye area, and fat/lean composition in live breeding animals. Iowa State’s ultrasound technology was generally accepted as the best model to predict individual differences in marbling. In January 2001, Iowa State abruptly stopped processing raw data from field technicians sending shock waves through the seed-stock industry. Iowa State then offered to lease their software to a private entity.
Much hand wringing ensued among breeders, breed association staffs and boards of directors— “Who would be so naïve as to invest precious capital into a new technology that hadn’t been proven in the field? Marv asked for my opinion. I told him, “It’s extremely risky! I ‘m confident of its accuracy, but I’m not sure the seed-stock industry will be willing to adopt it, much less pay for it”. He replied, “This is something the beef industry must do! The lack of uniformity and shortage of high quality beef is making it very difficult for beef to compete with poultry.”
Marv’s businesses included banks, meat packing/food processing, urban development, outdoor recreation, and supplying porcine heart values for humans. In spite of these endeavors, Marv not only invested capital into the new company, Walters & Associates CUP Lab, but spent six days a week as its Chief Executive Officer.
The rest is history. Today, beef sires with outstanding carcass EPDs, are featured in every major A.I. bull stud and breeders’ sale catalogs. Their carcass EPDs were derived mostly from ultra-sound data processed by Walters & Associates CUP lab. Today, these elite sires’ offspring grace the globe’s dinner plates and will continue as The CUP Lab will be owned and managed by Marv’s original partners.
Marv was a man with unquestionable ethics and an abiding faith in God. He has touched the lives of thousands of individuals by partnering and employing them in his businesses. Many of these young people attained the “American Dream” thanks to Marvin J. Walter. Nearly everyone who enjoys eating safe, healthy, good-tasting beef is also his beneficiary.