As you may have noticed on Instagram, I went on another #FarmFoodTour organized by Kansas Farm Bureau, Kansas Soybean and Kansas Pork Association. Here's last years recap if you want to start from the beginning of the fun. This time around we focused a little bit more on the science of food and all of the research, collaboration and regulations that help our farmers provide us with the best products.
This is a bit of a long post so grab a little popcorn, a beer, put your feet up and enjoy. ;)
Merck Animal Health
Merck Animal Health develops, manufactures and markets a wide range of veterinary medicines helping with prevention, treatment and disease control. They have offices in more than 50 countries - we had the chance to speak with the experts at the DeSota, Kansas location.
One thing that struck me was the setup of the location - t's a secure site with separate buildings for each segment of their company. They also keep each research study separated for the safety of the animals and the integrity of the research.
Talking about animal research is kind of a tough subject, so I was pleased to find out they have an Animal Welfare Committee that reviews and approves all aspects of a study before it can begin, and is under very close watch throughout the study. They have a TON of regulations from the FDA and EPA that must be followed. The studies use as few animals as possible - it's not 1000s like you may have heard from the "internets". They also have a vet on hand 24 hours to monitor animal safety.
Merck really wants to help contain and hold diseases from becoming big issues. Half of the products they sell are for prevention, not just treating. With all of the research they have helped create vaccines that can be given to a calf much sooner, helping to ensure the calf is not only healthy but doesn't pass along any diseases.
I know many are concerned about hormones being passed from the meat and milk we drink to us. I've got a few greats facts for you:
- You would need to eat 3431 lbs of meat in ONE day to consume the same hormones in one low-dose birth control pill.
- You would need to drink 95 quarts of milk in ONE day to consume the same hormones in one low-does birth control pill.
I don't know about you, but that helped reassure me I'm consuming safe products.
I encourage you to watch this video - this is a great intro to Monsanto and what they do. They are creating seeds to help farmers, large and small, to produce more from their land while conserving the world's natural resources. They are not just providing seeds for the United States, but for many other countries.
We were able to tour the St. Louis, Missouri location. Their campus is huge and employs 1500-1800 scientists. That's a lot of smart people. I'm not going to lie - my marketing brain was a little foggy after the tour but I still feel like I walked away with a better understanding of their business and their role.
I know GMOs can be super controversial and I do not want to start a debate here - I'm all about sharing accurate information. But I will say I think the name GMO is a terrible term. Genetically Modified Organism sounds scary and like they are putting chemicals in seeds. That's not the case.
I liked when they actually described the process calling it plant breeding and transgenic, or transferring genes from one plant to another. That makes a lot more sense to me - they are pulling DNA from other plants and combining it with other plants to create a healthy, more sustainable plant. That sounds a lot less scary. This is actually something that happens in nature on it's own, and has been happening for 1000s of years. They are just bringing it into a more controlled environment to do more with the process.
Did you know sweet potatoes weren't actually sweet; it was something that naturally happened over the years.
These types of products are allowing our farmers to grow a better product, using less natural resources. They are also developing seeds that are drought and pesticide resistant meaning we use less water and our farmers don't have to use as many weed and pest killers on crops. That sounds pretty good to me.
While we think of these benefits for us in the US, but these types of products are helping third world countries produce crops using limited resources and helping them feed the people of their community. Here's a great example of that.
Maschhoffs Family Foods Feed & Mill
The Maschhoffs is headquartered in Carlyle, Illinois and is one of the largest family-owned hog production networks in North America. It's owned by 5th generation family members. I thought we would pull up to a family farm, like we did on our first Farm Food Tour, but we pulled up to a super nice corporate office building and were greeted by Julie Maschhoff for our tour.
The Maschhoffs partner with nearly 550 family farmers across the Midwest. These family farmers, known as our Production Partners, work to collectively produce enough pork to feed more than 16 million consumers annually.
A good way to explain these Production Partners is thinking about a franchise system - these partners are approved, invest their own funds, and are giving a proven way to produce a product.
The feed the Maschhoff use is a carefully developed diet and highly regulated. They know this will help determine the quality of their end product. This same feed is provided to the Production Partners to ensure a consistent product. The recipe does vary as there are 8 different phases of a pigs diet and each requires a different feed.
Not only was I happy to hear how they partner with farmers in 11 states to give them a chance to have successful business in their community, but knowing how much care and attention is given to their product helped reassure me I'm getting a good product from the grocery store.
Our last stop of the tour was with Cory at Central Missouri Meat & Sausage in Fulton, Missouri. Cory was amazing - he has been processing his entire life and has a passion that's indescribable.
Cory walked us through his process, from start to finish. The attention and care his company gives to each phase was very interesting. They have 2-3 state inspectors on site to ensure every rule and regulation is followed, and that the products are safe. This was news to me but is actually a requirement for all processors.
We were able to see how they package all of the products. Cory has one of only a few bacon cutting machines. We got to try fresh bacon and my life will never be the same - it was amazing. They also have a huge smoker that was cooking ham and bacon - that smell was out of this world. We ended the tour by tasting summer sausage and luckily got to take one home with us!
I need to make another trip to see them soon. They are opening a retail store and restaurant in the next few months. You'll be able to purchase their products, have a steak prepared fresh, enjoy a sandwich and purchase other food items.
Overall, it was a very educational trip. Outside of these stops, I loved seeing my blogger buds. We ate a lot of amazing food. If you have have the opportunity to visit one of these stops or even a family farm I encourage you to do so - it's so valuable to go to the source and really get the facts.
Yeah! You made it through the post. I appreciate you!
While this trip was sponsored, all opinions are my own.