Published: Dec. 1, 2011 By

Kelly Heffer Green (Comm’97) may possibly head the most important company of which you’ve never heard.kelly green

In a largely male-dominated industry, Kelly is the third-generation owner and chairman of Birko, which manufactures concentrated chemicals and equipment used in the meat processing, food and beverage industries. Birko’s green products are used to help eliminate foodborne illnesses, such as E. coli and salmonella. The company’s customers consist of 80 percent of the top 10 U.S. beef processors, including Cargill and JBS.

Kelly is passionate about food safety, particularly the importance of eliminating foodborne illnesses such as E. coli. She also is interested in the role of meat, known as “protein” in the industry, in helping fight world hunger.

“Meat is high in nutritional value, but it can be hard for starving people in developing countries to afford,” Kelly says.

Birko is ranked No. 10 on the ColoradoBiz magazine list of Top 100 Woman-Owned Companies for 2011 and is the only Colorado manufacturing company in the Top 10. Kelly is one of two women serving on the board of the National Meat Association. The Henderson, Colo., company was started by her grandparents in 1953.

To help give the poor and hungry better access to protein, Kelly sponsors the Birko Greenjeans team through Heifer International, a global nonprofit that provides gifts of livestock to families that want to become self-reliant.

During her CU days, she spent a lot of time practicing her golf swing. As a member of the CU women’s golf team under coach Justi Miller, Kelly recalls most of her life revolved around golf and school. Team members took classes in the morning and practiced all afternoon at several Boulder-area golf courses. During the evening she studied.

Despite her hectic schedule, Kelly credits the CU athletic department with helping her learn several key skills that have stood her well in her business career.

“The athletic department really helped me succeed academically and being on the golf team taught me how to manage my ups and downs, take one day at a time and set goals,” Kelly says. “I learned time management, discipline and how to keep my head above water.”

Kelly remembers running the stairs at Folsom Field and hiking with friends at Chautauqua, which she dubs, “God’s Stairmaster.” She maintains her ties with CU through membership in the Alumni C-Club, a group of former CU letter winners.