As many of you know, I do not have much of a background in agriculture. However, I joined Sigma Alpha to grow my passion and appreciation for the backbone of the American society. At the end of January, I traveled to Chicago for three days to attend the AFA Food Institute. I never would have done this without the support and encouragement from all of my wonderful sisters. I was terrified before I left that I would not be competent enough to have good discussions about important issues facing the food industry. However, I was able to share my thoughts and experiences with all the other students freely.
We also went on various industry tours while there. I was fortunate enough to have breakfast with three amazing Cargill representatives at the McDonald’s across from their corporate office. We learned about the fresh beef initiative that Cargill and McDonald’s have been collaborating on recently. We also got to walk through the kitchen and see all of the food being prepared and cooked. After breakfast, we went back to Hamburger University and got a tour of the building as well as one of the test kitchens.
We then hopped on the bus and went over to the Tyson Downers Grove Research and Development plant. It was very interesting to see all the different steps and processes that occur when trying to reach the optimal product that you want to sell to consumers. We also received part of the orientation that all of their staff attend on their first day.
After the R&D center, we traveled to the Smithfield plant in St. Charles. Here, we toured the entire processing floor as well as the drying rooms. This was a very exciting experience as I have never been to any type of processing plant.
Overall, on the tour day, we got to see all aspects of the food industry. I’m so thankful for this opportunity and the lifelong connections and friendships that were made because of this institute.