Meat is an important staple in Nebraska’s economy. Tasty bacon, succulent hams, savory cuts of beef – many of the nation’s biggest players in the meat sector have huge presences in the state, including large-scale facilities operated by Smithfield Foods, Cargill Meat Solutions, JBS USA, Tyson Foods Inc. and Hormel Foods Corp.
Not only are these companies giving people delicious, high-quality foods, they are ensuring consumers are eating safe products by guaranteeing processors follow food safety standards every step of the way.
Global packaged meats company Smithfield Foods is the largest pork producer and processor in the U.S. Tucked away just outside of the small town of Crete is Smithfield’s Farmland processing facility, which employs 2,200 people – around one-third of the city’s population. The plant makes fresh pork products, like marinated pork, as well as smoked hams and ready-to-cook bacon that are popular in grocery stores in Nebraska and beyond. Farmland is one of Smithfield’s 13 core brands.
Facility employees handle products all the way from initial harvest to the final processing stages. According to Danielle O’Neel, the Crete Smithfield Farmland assistant human resources manager, the plant processes hogs to produce enough meat to feed approximately 30 to 40 million people across the world each week.
In order to handle such volume both safely and efficiently, the facility exercises a variety of quality control measures. O’Neel says U.S. Department of Agriculture employees are present on a daily basis to ensure Smithfield is following the proper food safety protocol.
“Our top focus is safety, and that goes for both our employees and our products,” O’Neel says. “We’re also really committed to animal care. Ultimately, we want to create the best-quality food we can in the safest environment possible.”
For example, all employees must have up-to-date food safety certifications, and the facility regularly practices mock recalls so it is prepared to act quickly if a problem arises. O’Neel says the plant’s quality assurance and food safety teams can trace products back to the exact date they were handled and the farm the hogs came from, a process that promptly pinpoints and resolves any issues a grocer or farmer brings to their attention.
Cargill Meat Solutions
Another major employer in Nebraska, and also located in the eastern part of the state, is the Cargill Meat Solutions plant in Schuyler, a beef processing facility that employs approximately 2,000 people.
According to Jarrod Gillig, the plant’s general manager, the Schuyler location manufactures fresh-boxed beef, frozen-boxed beef, ground beef, beef trimmings, finely textured beef and more, including products like Certified Angus Beef and Sterling Silver Premium meats.
The facility uses an automated camera assessment system for grading, with more than 75 percent of its products graded USDA Choice or Prime, the top two grades that meat can receive. The plant’s high volume and diverse range of products requires it to employ leading-edge technology to meet USDA food safety requirements.
Furthermore, employees must complete monthly food safety trainings, and they are closely monitored – particularly in the “Video War Room.” Gillig says the room received its name because “it’s where we can look at all the action as it happens real-time on four monitor screens.” If a video auditor notices a deviation from protocol, Gillig and the harvest manager are notified, and action is taken within five minutes of the occurrence.
Gillig also notes that managers complete daily safety checks with their teams and spend a great deal of time observing employees to identify and correct potentially risky work habits.