Ag Dawgs Take FPL Foods~Post-Trip

Having not grown up around agriculture, I can definitely say that this trip has given me a new perspective on agriculture, especially that of Georgia. The diversity that exists in Georgia’s agriculture is simply stunning. Our state features everything from extensive row crops to the south to beautiful orchards and vineyards in the mountains to the north, while also leading the country in the poultry industry. This trip provided a small taste of various sects of our state’s agriculture industry. In the same way that my view of agriculture has changed because of this trip, it has also changed my career plans. Going into this trip, I had this “perfect” plan for my life. However, this trip has exposed me to so many different appealing sides of the agriculture industry; I now can honestly say that I have no idea where I want to go in terms of my career. This may sound like a negative aspect of the trip, but I truly look at this as a positive outcome. I now know of many more different careers that I can get involved with that I would probably never have known about without this trip. Because of this trip, I am opening up myself to and looking into many other opportunities that agriculture could provide for me in the future.

One of my favorite stops was FPL Foods. This beef processing plant was unlike anything I have ever seen before. When we arrived at the plant, the smell was… interesting to say the least. I was fortunate enough to be in the group that had the extensive tour through the facility. Our tour went backwards in terms of the direction that the meat and carcasses were traveling through the plant. At the start of the tour we immediately put on lab coats, rubber boats, and were required to wash our arms/hands and then rinse down our boots. This was so interesting to see because it completely invalidates the common misconceptions that uneducated people have about industrialized agriculture and sanitation. Whenever we changed rooms or went into a new area, special measures were taken to ensure that the processing was not effected. We were able to see the “deboning room” where the meat was separated from the bone and packaged. We then saw the cooler where meat carcasses are held when the USDA has determined them to be suspect for possible problems. This is yet another example of the specific measures that the industry itself and the USDA perform in order to ensure that our meat is safe and clean to eat. After traveling through the cooler, we moved back along the processing line and into the rendering/primary processing side of the plant. Here we saw the carcasses cut in half and the non-meat parts separated from the carcasses for packaging. One of the interesting parts of this area was that we were able to see how almost every single part of the cow is used to provide something for us. The tour guide described how everything from the lips and cheek meat to the testicles are packaged and sent somewhere else to provide humans with a product. This is another example of how the beef industry defies public misconceptions. The public has this idea that industrialized meat production somehow creates a ton of wastes, while, in fact, the industry makes every possible effort to not have any wastes by finding a use for every part of the animal. The last part of the tour was probably the most interesting. Our tour guide took us in pairs to the knockout room on the kill floor. Here, we saw the cows terminated by a bolt gun and then bled out. It was quite graphic but I feel like it was something worth seeing. It was also interesting to find out that the plant collects the blood from the cow and dehydrates it to be used in vitamin supplements. This just further proved that the company was taking every measure to make use of the entire animal. I can definitely say that seeing this process was eye opening even if it, at times, made me a bit queasy. As someone who consumes a large amount of meat, I think that it helps me appreciate the people who help make cows into the meat that I consume on a day-to-day basis. Though I know that the meat industry is not where I want to spend my career, I’m extremely glad that we made this stop and that I was able to see this enlightening process take place.

FPL Foods was only one example of the many, many different areas of agriculture that this Ag tour changed my perspective on. Along this trip I made numerous contacts with industry professionals and people in the College of Agriculture as well as what I hope will be life long friends in the future. For these reasons, I highly encourage anyone who considers it to make this small investment and go on this trip. It was very beneficial for me and I know it will be for all future AgDawgs who choose to participate.

~Grant Dawson