Yesterday, the Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska (A-FAN) and CommonGround volunteers hosted a group of 30 influencers on the 2013 Farm Road Rally Tour. This wasn’t just any old tour…it was an extensive behind-the-scenes look at Smithfield Farmland and Prairieland Dairy. Wow! The amount of expertise these two companies have is proof as to why they’ve been so successful.
The day started off at Smithfield Farmland with an introduction by Cory Rains. During the tour, Cory informed the group that at the Crete, Neb., plant they process 62,400 head of fresh pork a week. And 1.4 billion pounds of that processed meat is bacon! Within that same week 30 to 40 million people consume a product from Farmland, Crete. So, the next time you are buying a pork product from your local grocery store, check the back of the packaging and if it gives a number with “CR” behind it that means it came from your own state of Nebraska’s Crete plant. Another fun fact the group learned -- Do you enjoy eating at IHOP? Ever have those delicious sausage links? They too, come from Farmland.
Before the hogs get to Farmland to be processed they are bred and raised by hog producers all across the nation. Last year Farmland harvested 2.9 million head and 1.19 million head of them came from Nebraska hog producers. Traceability is vital to a production such as this. It allows the facility to track the hog back to the individual farms by tattooing it straight off the delivery truck.
After lunch the group headed over to Firth, Neb., where Prairieland Dairy’s very own Dan Rice hopped on the busy and gave an automated tour. He explained all four companies within Prairieland that help with the dairy expenses. Cattle have to eat; therefore, they raise much of their own crop to make corn silage to feed the cattle. The next question after what do cattle eat is what do they do with the waste? That’s where Prairieland Gold comes into play. Prairieland Gold is a composting business that sells around 20,000 yards of compost a year to local landscapers and gardeners. The liquid waste Prairieland uses back on their own farm to cut outside fertilizer costs.
At the dairy they milk 1,400 cattle 3 times a day. This is a never-ending 24/7 process. Not only are they milking cows 3 times a day they also calve out on average 10 head of cows a day. That is 10 babies a day that then get bottle fed their mother’s milk for the next 60 days! Dan informed the group that cattle are creatures of habit and often take the same steps each day as they did the day before. They have experience with tracking this from the ankle bands the cows wear at all times. These monitor the cow’s steps and vital signs to insure that they stay as healthy as possible.
The tour guests were on the other side of the agriculture lifecycle. Chefs, grocers and dietitians galore! Organizations like A-FAN and CommonGround feel it is important to give people within the food industry the opportunity to see where the food they prepare comes from. Mario Ochoa, Hy-Vee chef, felt the same. “I speak for myself when I say it was a life-changing tour, in the sense that even though I play an important role in the food industry to our consumers, I seem to have forgotten the reality of what important steps have to be taken in order for our animal proteins to be processed so they can end up on our shelves for our consumers and their families as well as our own.”
A-FAN and CommonGround thank all that participated in the tour and all of those who made it possible.