During the last session for the class III fellows, we were exposed to many diverse angribusiness entities on the Eastern Shore. These businesses ranged in size from a father-son farming operation to a massive global industry leader employing over 50,000 employees world wide. The later mentioned business is Smithfield and their high sanitation standards mixed with efficiency was an experience I am grateful to have gotten to witness.
The class III fellows were given a tour deep into one of Smithfield’s processing plants that employees 2,500 individuals. To say this plant is a community hub is an understatement. We met workers ranging from locals to many that moved from states far away to work at the plant and some that drive long commutes just to work at Smithfield. Our class was given rare access to the entire plant and what struck me the most was just how hard everyone works. It was apparent from the start that Smithfield has instilled a high productivity work mentality with high safety and quality standards.
Many criticize how our food system is processed and question the safety of our food. Having witnessed first hand the no exceptions standpoint on food safety and handling at Smithfield, it was apparent that they never want to have any person harmed from consuming their products. Beyond food safety, personal safety for the workers was exceptional.
When we left the plant, I was and continue to be amazed at how an organization so large has been able to maintain food safety and employee safety without loosing efficiency. Many parts of agriculture are attacked from different angles and many out there may not agree with large scale food processing. My take away from Smithfield had nothing to do with these issues but with being able to see the heart and soul of a company in each individual that works at Smithfield. To instill this into so many workers on a daily basis takes great leadership and was an experience I’ll never forget.
Thanks to Smithfield for hosting the VALOR class III and for the behind the scenes tour. I’m off to go find some jalapeño bacon!