In a whirlwind of speed and efficiency and through a maze of machines and people, pigs fly through Smithfield Foods’ packing facility. Smithfield Foods is a $14 billion global food company and the world’s largest pork processor and hog producer. As a part of our second VALOR seminar we were very fortunate to tour the plant located in Smithfield, VA.
As we donned our lab coats and rubber boots, I couldn’t help but think that even within this group of leaders involved in agriculture many of us have little to no experience with large-scale meat processing facilities. We are in tune to production agriculture, but we often overlook what it takes to get that cow, hog, or fowl from market weight to grocery store meat section at an affordable price. Not only have our consumers been separated from production agriculture through many generations, but they are also removed from how their meat and other food products are processed. It wasn’t long ago, that many families held their own butchering day or got their meat products from a local butcher. Times have changed, but I think learning how meat is processed is an important part of a holistic agriculture education and is vital to being an effective advocate for agriculture. Having toured this and other meat processing facilities, I can honestly say that I am confident in the safety of our food and the welfare of both the animals and employees of these facilities.
Beyond the company’s obvious commitment to food safety and animal welfare, Smithfield is also committed to the communities where they are located and where they source their hogs. In fact, the company’s headquarters are still located in the same town where the company was founded 80 years ago. They employ over 50,000 employees worldwide and over 2,500 just in the facilities located in Smithfield, VA. This plant is vital not only to the small town of Smithfield, but to the many employees that commute to have an opportunity to work at the plant.
Thank you to the employees of Smithfield for a wonderful tour and the company for their willingness to host us during our second seminar.