Here's a screen shot from the 10-minute segment where Nicole Johnson-Hoffman gave millions of Oprah show viewers a look insider her plant.

Last February Cargill’s Nicole Johnson-Hoffman probably became the most well-known packing plant manager both in and outside the ag community.

Need a little refresher? The 15-year Cargill employee led investigative reporter Lisa Ling through a plant for a segment on the Oprah show’s Vegan Week. And she nailed it. (You can see that video here).

A few weeks ago, 14 of our foodservice partners had a chance to meet Nicole and get a personal tour of Cargill’s Fort Morgan plant. This particular group was part of that Master’s of Brand Advantages class that I’ve written about before.

The beef marketers—who hailed from places like Jacksonville, Fla., Milwaukee, Wis., and Modesto, Calif.—spent the previous two days in Nebraska visiting Sandpoint Cattle Company and Chappell Feedlot. Then they broke into smaller groups to spend a day tagging along on commercial ranches.

The group sure enjoyed learning about the seedstock business from the crew at Sandpoint Cattle Company.

To say that enthusiasm was high would have been an understatement, says Deanna Walenciak, CAB director of marketing, who serves as the classes’ “Dean.”

After the ranch visits they were bubbling over with excitement over the down-to-earth, passionate people they met and when we got to the packing plant we found the same type of people. That made such an impression,” she says.

They started out by showing Temple Grandin’s packing plant tour video. Then, for food safety reasons, they moved backwards through the plant. In the sales cooler the group studied the carcasses, saw the grading process and what defects kick CAB-hopefuls out of the program.

“That’s where the specifications come to life,” Deanna says.

Then they continued through the fabrication line, the ground beef area and the kill floor and hide removal.

“Seeing every step is so important so they truly understand what an amazing and efficient business the packing plant is. To see the overwhelming amount of skilled work it takes to get it from animal to meat,” she says.

Every year our packing partners across the country open their doors for dozens of tour groups. From Dakota Dunes, S.D., to Amarillo, Texas, from Joslin, Ill., to Dodge City, Kan., chefs, salespeople and culinary educators see beef production up close. Deanna says the reaction is almost always the same: they’re wowed at how clean, safe and efficient the process is. “It gives them confidence in our beef supply,” she says.

When Nicole took the group around earlier this month she told them how proud she was of her employees, even telling folks to give the workers a smile or a “thumbs up” to let them know how much we appreciate the good job they do.

Well, here’s a big ole virtual thumbs-up from my part of the world to theirs!

May your bottom line be filled with black ink,


Beef’s a Trip Archives:

Day 1: Starting at day one

Day 2: Who are these people?

Day 3: Stockholders

Day 4: The cowherd’s purpose

Day 5: Deciding to care

Day 6: Quality focus doesn’t have to skip the middleman

Day 7: Stocking for quality

Day 8: SOLD!

Day 9: What have you done today?

Day 10: Working together to make ‘em better

Day 11: Keep on truckin’

Day 12: Packers want quality

Day 13: The target

Day 14: Packers up close & personal

Day 15: It’s not all about the beef

Day 16: Further processors

Day 17: From here to there–and a lot more

Day 18: He’s on your team

Day 19: Beyond prices, grocery stores uncovered

Day 20: Getting quality in the carts

PS—If you head over to Holly Spangler’s “30 days on a Prairie Farm” you’re in for a treat. Plus you can find a full list of all the writers blogging their way through November with us.