We started off the morning, dressed in jeans, with a tour of the Hormel Plant. Jeff Grev, Vice President of Legislative Affairs, and Melissa Rossman, Quality & Process Control Manager, greeted us and provided us with some information about the Hormel Plant. After frocking up, they then turned us over to our tour guides. At this facility, they process 19,000 hogs a day and can produce 400 cans of SPAM every minute. What a busy place, forklifts running everywhere, the processing lines where lined with employees each busily performing their job. I think we all walked away from the tour with an appreciation for the effort that goes into processing our food. I definitely came away with a lot more confidence in the quality of the products that Hormel produces at that plant.
After defrocking we made our way to the Hormel Research and Development Facility a few miles away. Aaron Asmus, Director of Lab Services, Research and Development, gave us an overview of the different products Hormel works with and what they do at this facility. One of Hormel’s longtime business philosophies is “Originate Don’t Imitate”. Their research and development continues with that philosophy. After Aarons presentation, we split into groups and got a tour of their fairly new facility. This lab does all the testing for Hormel and its products, and even investigates product complaints.
After our tour of the Hormel Research and Development Facility, we made our way back to our hotel for a quick lunch and change of clothes.
We then loaded our bus and headed to the Hormel Institute. The Hormel Institute was established in 1942 by Jay Hormel in cooperation with the University of Minnesota as a biomedical research center. Currently the research scientists and collaborators work together in the institute’s state of the art laboratories to accelerate discoveries leading to improved health. Their research contributes to the development of new prevention and treatment therapies for cancer and other chronic diseases.
After our tour at the Hormel Institute, we loaded the bus and crossed over the Minnesota-Iowa border for a tour of the Absolute Energy Ethanol Plant. Rick Schwarck and his staff provided us with a lot of information about the ethanol industry and their plant. After spending a half an hour or so hearing from the staff we toured the plant. It was eye opening to see how much corn makes its way through the plant each day.
From the Ethanol plant, we went back to Austin and the SPAM Museum. We were again greeted by Jeff Grev. Hormel’s Corporate Executive Chef, Ken Alston, prepared several SPAM based hors d’oeuvres for us. For some of our group it was the first time they had tried SPAM. I found it interesting that the museum was hosting one of their monthly community outreach programs. Families from the community were invited in to decorate a can of SPAM as a Christmas ornament. It was a very busy place. I managed to pick up a few items at the SPAM gift shop for my wife’s birthday. I hope she likes the earrings.
We ended the evening with a dinner at the Historic Hormel House. It was interesting looking at some of the history of the Hormel family. This one family has had a huge, long-lasting impact on the Austin area. A Mayo Professor of Biophysics, Dr. Zeljko Bajzer joined us for dinner. Being from Croatia, Dr. Bajzer provided us with a lot of insight about his home country and shared some food choice recommendations for us to consider on our upcoming trip there.
Submitted by Darren Newville