Chairman of the Board, President and 3rd Generation Owner
As the third-generation owner of Birko and a Colorado native, Kelly Green carries on the vision for food safety started by her grandparents, Ward and Florence Smith. By creating the Birko Advantage – highly trained experts offering exceptional service, the best chemistry, and the most innovative equipment – she is committed to continuing their legacy.
From inception on, Birko has been a company built on listening to customers’ needs. Kelly’s vision to combine technical services, sanitary equipment design, and innovative chemistry to meet customer challenges has resulted in a trusted food safety company, known for superior customer experiences. Based on her ability to bring all the necessary components together, customers rely on Birko to be a value-added partner. Helping customers protect their brands is key.
Prior to becoming President, Kelly earned her MBA from Colorado State University and a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Colorado. She is a former MVP for the University of Colorado’s women’s golf team and is a former Colorado Women’s First Data Corp. Open champion! If not at Birko, she can be found on the links or cycling Colorado’s 14-ers.
Kelly is active in the food safety arena and currently is a member of the United Fresh Government Relations Council. She is a former member of the North American Meat Association’s board of directors, the CSU Executive MBA Board and the Colorado Women’s Business Chamber of Commerce. She is a past board member for the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council-West and Birko is a WBENC-certified company.
In 2014, Kelly was recognized as a Woman of Influence in the Food Industry by The Griffin Report of Food Marketing. She was also named a finalist for the 2012 and 2014 Outstanding Women in Business award, sponsored by the Denver Business Journal. Under Kelly’s leadership, Birko was ranked #34 in the 2014 Top 50 Family-Owned Companies by ColoradoBiz magazine and Birko was named a 2013 Top Company winner by ColoradoBiz magazine.
Chief Executive Officer
Ensuring consumers enjoy safe, high-quality food and beverages – that’s the mission of Birko and the mission of CEO Mark Swanson. Mark, who’s led Birko since 2008, is passionate about offering innovative chemistry and equipment solutions, supported by the best in technical expertise, to help companies save lives, reduce risks and protect brands.
Food safety has been an integral part of Mark’s professional experience while working with some of the most respected institutions in the protein industry, including Iowa Beef Processors, ConAgra Foods and Swift & Company. He draws on that experience leading Birko in its mission to help food processing plants provide clean and safe fruits and vegetables, protein products and beverages.
Mark is a member of the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) board of directors and recently completed a term on the U.S. Meat Export Federation’s (USMEF) Board of Directors Executive Committee. He a member of the Produce Marketing Association, the United Fresh Produce Association and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
Mark is a member of the Association for Corporate Growth and is a frequent speaker at their events. He routinely presents on food safety topics to industry groups, government agencies and graduate degree programs including Colorado State University’s (CSU) College of Business and College of Agriculture Sciences.
Mark earned a bachelor’s of science in agriculture business and an executive MBA, both from Colorado State University, and is the past president of the CSU Alumni Association Board of Directors. He is a member of the CSU CIS Advisory Board and a past member of the CSU Entrepreneurs Center Board of Directors. In addition, he serves on the CSU College of Ag Sciences Dean’s Leadership Council. Go Rams!
Vice President, Birko Equipment
With more than 22 years of experience in the food safety and food equipment industry, Bob Ogren knows the value of custom equipment and integrated chemistry. If our customers are satisfied with our products and the follow-on service and support, Bob is a happy man!
In 2013, Bob brought his passion for quality and superior customer service to Birko when he joined the company as Chad Equipment’s director of sales and marketing. He was promoted to VP, Birko Equipment Division in 2016, and continues to lead the division in developing, servicing and supporting new industry-leading equipment for the protein, further processing and produce markets.
Previously, Bob was the director of North and South American sales for System Cleaners A/S, a Danish-based manufacturer of automated food and beverage plant cleaning systems. He began his career in 1991 at Specialty Food Equipment (SFE), an industrial food equipment distributor in the Midwest. At SFE he served as director of foodservice operations and ultimately as company president before joining System Cleaners A/S in 2006.
Bob is a frequent participant in industry events and recently authored two industry articles: Continuous Improvement in Sanitary Design in the April 2017 issue of Food Manufacturing Magazine, and Improving Water Efficiency in the Carcass Washing Harvest Room in the May 2017 issue of The National Provisioner.
Bob earned a bachelor’s degree in English with an emphasis in economics from the University of Kansas and is a big Jayhawks fan.
Vice President, Business Development
Dave leads Birko’s efforts to bring the company’s experience and technical expertise to food and beverage companies in need of food safety support and solutions. He plays a key role in driving Birko’s continued growth and profitability while ensuring the highest level of customer satisfaction and support.
Previously, he served as Birko’s Director of Sales for the Western U.S. where he built a strong team of technical service representatives and introduced Birko into new markets and developed multi-facility corporate accounts.
With nearly 30 years of sales leadership experience, Dave has led sales for other food safety suppliers such as Diversey, Ecolab, Great Western Chemical and Nalco. Because of this breadth of experience, Dave knows what it takes to protect products, and protect brands.
Dave earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Texas A&M University and his MBA from Amberton University. As a Texas native, and a Texas A&M alum, Dave is an Aggie through and through.
Vice President, Accounting, Finance, IT
Suzan Damron joined Birko in June 2017 and serves as the company’s Vice President of Accounting, Finance and IT.
Prior to Birko, she was the Chief Financial Officer at VIPAR Heavy Duty, Inc., and its subsidiaries, a manufacturing and distribution network. She also served as the COO of VIPAR’s manufacturing subsidiary. Prior to VIPAR, she was an Accounting Manager at Eisenmann Corporation, and an Audit Manager at a public accounting and tax firm.
Suzan has an MBA from Northern Illinois University, a B.S. in Accountancy from Illinois State, and is a certified public accountant.
Director, Technical Services
Protein, brew, produce and further processing, Elis Owens leads Birko’s Technical Services group which supports all of these industries. His team includes the technical experts involved in research and development, quality assurance, regulatory compliance, and customer education and support.
Elis has a passion for food safety and process improvement, and sharing knowledge with customers and their employees gives him great satisfaction. A frequently sought-after presenter, he speaks often at industry and professional association meetings and has presented at PMA, BIFSCo and NAMI. He has been an instructor at the UC Davis Post Harvest Workshop and at various events of the Pacific Northwest Horticultural Council.
Active in the food safety industry, Elis serves on the PMA Science and Technology Committee, the Center for Produce Safety Technical Committee, the United Fresh Food Safety and Technology Council, the Listeria Task Force – a joint PMA/United Fresh working group, and the Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association Food Safety Committee. He a member of the International Association for Food Protection, the Master Brewers Association of the Americas and the American Society of Brewing Chemists.
Elis is equally active in research and has published in the peer reviewed journals FEMS Microbiology Ecology and FEMS Microbiology Letters as well as recently authoring Battling Listeria in Produce Processing in Food Quality and Safety Magazine, and Sanitary Design’s Role in Fresh Produce Processing to Prevent Listeria Contamination in Food Safety Magazine. Elis is named as a co-inventor on a number of Birko’s patent applications, including the Beefxide® and Chicxide® blends of lactic and citric acids.
Prior to joining the Birko lab team in 2005, Elis worked in the brewing industry where he held a variety of positions in quality assurance and as head brewer. Having spent seven years as a master brewer, he is acutely aware of the role brewery sanitation plays in beer quality and shelf stability. And just in case you were wondering, he’s currently enjoying porters and stouts.
Elis earned his Ph.D. from Cardiff University in Wales, and conducted postdoctoral research at Michigan State University’s Center for Microbial Ecology. He has a diploma in brewing science from the American Brewers Guild and is a FSMA Preventive Controls Qualified Individual.
Technical Director, Craft Brewing
As the Technical Director of Craft Brewing for Birko, Dana consults craft breweries, wineries and distilleries on food safety and sanitation practices. He has more than 20 years of experience serving Birko’s brew customers and is known in the industry as one of the leading voices on sanitation.
He has formulated many Birko products including the patented Xlerator, Acid Brite #2, Brute Plus, WAY-VOS, Cell-R-Mastr and invented and consigned the keg cleaning with acid and detergent only patent (Ultra Niter and X-Puma) to Birko in 2012.
A home-brewer since 1989, Dana had authored numerous articles for Zymurgy, The New Brewer and other brewery trade publications and a frequent speaker at industry events. He is a member of the Brewers Association Safety Subcommittee, (SSC) and the current President of the MBAA (Master Brewers Association of the Americas) Rocky Mountain District.
Dana joined Birko in 1979 and attended Mesa College in Grand Junction, Colo.
Consultant, Former President of Chad Equipment
Having a passion for food safety and innovation, Mike Gangel has dedicated his impressive career to the meat and poultry industry. From 1986 to 2011, Mike was the owner and President of Chad Company, a well-known industry supplier that developed specialty harvesting and processing equipment. In 2011, Birko purchased Chad and Mike continued as President of the operation.
Mike is highly regarded in the industry for his forward thinking and innovations in red meat harvesting and processing. He invented the patented Chad hot water pasteurization system and pioneered the development of lactic acid mixing stations. Under his leadership at Chad, the company introduced the patented WaterSmart equipment, which reduces water usage in its carcass, head and tripe wash cabinets.
Throughout his career, Mike has been extremely involved in the food safety industry and has served on boards for the North American Meat Association (NAMA) and the North American Meat Processors (NAMP), now NAMI. He was also a member of the National Meat Association (NMA), the Southwest Meat Association (SMA), the American Meat Institute (AMI) and NAMI.
In 2017, Mike was recognized with the Industry Advancement Award from the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) for his innovation and leadership in food safety technology.
He received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from St. Benedict’s College and a master’s degree in economics from Notre Dame University. On his first day at St. Benedict’s, Mike met his wife Susan and they have been very happily married for 46 years!
Mike retired from Birko in July 2016 and continues to consult on new product development and strategy for the company.