National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) members toured JBS Friday afternoon as part of its "New Technologies, Proud Traditions" campaign.
The JBS tour is part the NASDA meeting hosted by Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey. The annual event saw agriculture leaders from around the U.S. hopscotch across the state, learning about innovations in the field of agriculture.
"We wanted to showcase the pork industry," said Dustin VandeHoef, communications director with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. "It's so important for the economy."
T-R PHOTO BY DAVID ALEXANDER
Agriculture leaders from across the U.S. took two tours of JBS Friday afternoon. A tour of the plant’s procurement center aimed to demonstrate worker’s humane treatment and commitment to cleanliness of the hogs, like the one in this photo taken during the tour.
Iowa's fourth Congressional District is the second largest hog producing region in the U.S., according to the National Pork Producers Council, second only to its fifth district.
JBS hosted two tours, each focused on one of the plant's innovations in agriculture. A tour of the procurement center - where workers corral hogs for slaughter - aimed to demonstrate JBS's commitment to treating animals humanely and gave agriculture leaders insight into animal handling, drawing attention to JBS's techniques.
VandeHoef called JBS's animal handling methodology "cutting-edge."
Jon Hagler, director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture, said such a modern process benefits everyone involved: when handlers treat animals well, those animals make less noise, which lowers the stress of the employees handling them. Also, animals that are less stressed produce better-tasting meat.
JBS has a no-compete clause, meaning its methods it innovates are available to other companies so long as it does not put JBS at a disadvantage in the marketplace.
"JBS believes in sharing unique secrets. When it comes to animal handling, it's good for the industry," said Troy Mulgrew, general manager at JBS. "It gives all of us a good name."
The second part of the tour highlighted JBS's distribution center, showing ag leaders how the entire plant is controlled from a hive of computers nestled above a network of pallets.
Increased efficiency from using the automated system has allowed the plant to do more work with fewer employees without displacing any workers, said Todd Carl, first-shift plant manager.
"It's a constantly evolving process that has to be managed minute by minute," Carl said.
Mike Strain, commissioner of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, said the efficiency and uniformity of the plant impressed him and echoed Hagler's sentiments regarding animal treatment.
He said operations like JBS's typify why America is a global leader in food production.
"Nothing is wasted," he said.