This post was made possible by the Michigan Agriculture Council. Transportation and meals were provided. No compensation was received. I was not required to write this post. All opinions remain my own.
Last week the Michigan Agriculture Council hosted me and a group of various bloggers and chefs on a one day tour to learn how our food gets from the pasture to the plate. This was a fascinating trip for me because I love farming. I was born and raised in the country and we’ve raised small animals from time to time. The tour also started off in my hometown of Kalamazoo, Michigan. How cool is that?!
Our first stop was to the Oswalt Family Farm in Vicksburg, Michigan.
The Oswalt Farm is one of the only livestock producers in the area. They own several black angus cattle, 300 calves, and 11 bulls along with many lambs. They “lamb” –the process of birthing lambs– about five times a year.
When we asked the owner –Scott Oswalt– what his favorite thing about farming was he answered, “I was born into farming. It’s got to be in your blood. You have got to have the willingness to put the animals first.”
The Oswalt’s eat what they raise and they’re just as concerned as you and I about consumer issues. “We keep them healthy.” My faith in Michigan farmers was restored that morning after touring the Oswalt Farm.
Our next stop on the tour was in the tiny country village of Delton –where I was born and raised. The Osborne Feedlot of Delton, Michigan has been balling straw for four generations. This is a family farm run by family only. The Osborne’s own 600 acres but they farm 1,300 acres.
Currently they feed about 500 cows that are ready to harvest in December or when they reach 1,450 pounds. The cows come to them at about two months of age and they feed them for about eighteen months. Every day they make up a 50 pound mixture for their 500 cows. The final product is the mix to the far left.
“These animals make our living. They eat before we do. We treat our animals right.” ~Ken Osborne
We had learned about farming, birthing, and raising cattle, but what happens when the cattle becomes fully grown and ready to be processed? The folks at JBS Packerland in Plainwell let us tour their meat packaging facility to find out. I’m the one sticking out like a sore thumb below. I didn’t have my frock on yet because it was the wrong size.
The tour was a bit yucky but very interesting nonetheless. We got to see the carcasses, the cutting of the meat and finally the packaging stage.
JBS can process up to 2,000 heads a day. At the Plainwell facility they process beef only. Meijers is one of their best costumers. They produce a lot of ground beef and patties for them.
At JBS they use almost the entire animal; the meat, scraps, fat, organs, bones and blood. Our tour guide said, “We’ll box everything but the moo.”
The blood can be used for makeup, lipstick and sold to research facilities to separate the red cells and white cells for skin grafting and transplants. Bones can be used for bone meal and fertilizer. The fat is used for soaps, cooking and feeds and there’s 100 different uses for scraps.
After touring JBS we drove to the local Meijer in Plainwell to hear about how the meat hits the shelves of our stores.
Meijer strives to build category that makes sense to the customer, always tries to stay ahead to elimate any issues and puts a big bet on service. They want people behind the counter to know what they sell so they can communicate and better serve the customers.
Finally after learning all about how our food gets from the pasture to our local stores we were ready to have it hit our plate at Webster’s Prime in Kalamazoo.
Our menu consisted of Caesar salad, roasted Michigan butterball potatoes and spring ramps, roasted asparagus, a variety of beef samplings –including black angus prime ribeye and grass finished darling downs wagyu sirloin– and dessert. Very scrumptious!
A big thank you to the Michigan Agriculture Council for hosting me on a fun and educational adventure! I found it interesting that May is actually beef month too.
If you would like to stay up-to-date on the latest news in Michigan farming, food, and recipes follow the Michigan Agriculture Council below.