When you think about Virginia agriculture, it is hard to find a more successful story than Smithfield Foods. They graciously opened their doors to our VALOR group earlier this month to show us the ins and outs of their operation.
Smithfield Foods started in 1936 as Smithfield Packing Company in Smithfield, VA. Since then, through nearly 40 acquisitions, Smithfield Foods has grown into a $15 billion global food company employing more than 54,000 people in North America and Europe. They are the world’s largest pork processor and hog producer. Smithfield Foods is currently a wholly owned subsidiary of WH Group of China, but remains headquartered in Smithfield, VA. Smithfield Foods’ mission is as follows:
“We are passionate about producing good food the right way. Our business depends on the humane treatment of animals, stewardship of the environment, producing safe and high-quality food, the vitality of local communities, and creating a fair, ethical, and rewarding work environment for our people.”
Given Smithfield Foods’ background and success, we naturally wanted to take a look. After dividing into two smaller groups, Alex Potter gave each group a tour of the pork processing facility. We started at the end of the process (packaged bacon) and worked all the way back to the hog pens. The sheer size of the plant is impressive as well as the number of employees coordinated throughout the facility. Alex’s commentary throughout the tour was extremely informative. It was especially interesting to learn about all the safety precautions and technology they use to ensure the safety of their employees.
While one group was touring with Alex, the other group was given a presentation by Bill Gill, the Assistant Vice President of Environmental Affairs. His presentation focused on the sustainability efforts Smithfield Foods is taking to reduce their environmental footprint. In 2016, Smithfield Foods took their environmental stewardship effort to the next level by committing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% across their entire supply chain by 2025. A big part of that goal involves how they handle manure. A statement on their website reads:
“We are increasingly creating value from manure through innovative technologies while reducing potential impacts and maintaining our commitment to manage manure responsibly. For example, we have been partnering with others to turn manure into energy.”
Research & Development
After the tour and presentation, our group moved to Smithfield’s Innovation Center for lunch and a presentation by Dr. Doug Sutton, the Vice President of Quality and Research. Their kitchen facility made everyone in the group jealous. Dr. Sutton provided a thorough overview of the company and talked about some of the neat things happening in their Research & Development division while we ate.
One of the neatest aspects of VALOR is the opportunity to visit places like Smithfield Foods and interact with the folks who make it happen. It was awesome to tour the processing facility and innovation center. Their hospitality and engagement with our group was second to none. Check out their website here to learn more about their company and the brands they produce.