Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Read at your own risk

I promised my family I would warn them about this blog with an obvious title regarding a tour I took at the Hormel pork processing plant in Austin, MN. It’s interesting that in a world of people so concerned about “food miles” and processing that many people don’t really know or want to know where the food comes from. Although I can’t divulge many things I saw do to a confidentiality agreement, I do want to say that their plant was very clean and sanitary. By the way, I was once asked by a student where beef comes from… I digress…

Hormel processes 19,500 pigs a day in just this plant. Only a fraction of the millions processed every day by all pork processing plant in America by the way. As I mentioned, the plant is extremely sanitary and USDA inspectors are at every key stage of the processing systems. It was absolutely amazing to see a whole hog at the beginning processed down to edible food ready for sale in just one day. Those products that are not smoked anyway… Give it a couple of days…

Hormel is sometimes synonymous with SPAM since it is their most popular item. Fun fact: Hawaii is the largest consumer of SPAM… Talk about a modern marvel of processing, I saw only about 4 people total that worked on the SPAM processing line. The raw SPAM is canned and sealed then cooked right in the can in the biggest oven I ever saw! After it comes out, it is labeled, packed and sent to the shelves. I just had to get a can when I got home to try it… Let’s just say I am as fond of it as I was 25 years ago (last time I ate it) when I had it with my Grandfather; who did enjoy it by the way. Anyway, this was a staple during WWII and nobody will take that away from them.

To give you an idea of the sanitary requirements, every stage of the plant we entered, we had to wash and sanitize our hands and shoes. We were given frocks and hard hats as well. (Wouldn’t want a 250 lb pig falling on our heads) Yes, we walked under and through a conveyor of carcasses. Note to self: pigs have blood too… The group I was with represented 15 self-operated food service universities and I believe most had the same reaction. We were thrust into every aspect of the plant in such a way as not too many questions were asked. By the end it was clear that Hormel had this down to a science with every aspect of the hog utilized. I can’t divulge how, but let’s just say I will never eat Jell-O again! I would recommend Hormel products as I have seen firsthand the sanitary and humane processing facility in its entirety. Products to try are the Black Forrest and Cure 81® varieties.


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