Food Processing: A Nudge in the Right Direction

Transparency has topped the list of suggestions that leading food processors need to embrace to remain competitive in a more sophisticated market.

By Dominique Cantelme
From the January/February 2018 Issue

In the Food Processing Industry revenue is generated from the sale of food and ingredients to customers such as supermarkets and restaurants. has come up with helpful ideas for processors in 2018, most of which tie into their number one suggestion of transparency.

The site advises companies to embrace GMO labeling and the best way to do this is clearly. Codes are confusing and leave people feeling like the confusion is purposeful—which it sometimes is. Preparation for Glyphosate-Free labeling also is encouraged. It’s been a long time coming and goes hand in hand with GMO labeling. The most widely used chemical in the world and of all time, generic glyphosate and Monsanto’s branded Roundup, not only kill weeds, but all plants in contact. This has led to more plants being genetically modified to resist the chemical. It’s a vicious cycle that only leads to more chemicals that most companies do not want consumers to know about.

The World Health Organization has labeled glyphosate a probable cause of cancer, and the state of California has classified glyphosate as a carcinogen.

Glyphosate/Roundup has been linked to such conditions as allergies, autism, cancer, infertility and Parkinson’s and since it doesn’t simply stay on the GMO fields where it’s used, the chemical is found virtually everywhere, most likely carried by wind or ground water causing major collateral damage. It’s no wonder people worry when it shows up in their water supply, schoolyards, breast milk, and blood.

How transparent a company is most likely will correspond to how much consumers can handle. But if you don’t want to acknowledge genetically modified ingredients or glyphosate are in your product, remove them. Either way, consumers want to know. One thing’s for sure, it is better to leave it off the label if it leads to lies. Ingredients not included and cures for ailments should not be toted if untrue. The truth always prevails and backlash is ugly.


Shiawassee County, MI is strategically positioned to take advantage of the rapidly growing agricultural processing sector in the state, which has traditionally been known for being focused on automotive. It is located in the heart of this production, making it a great location for activities that serve the industry.

food processing
Prolime has a long history with Shiawassee County and will soon begin pelletizing lime for precision application in farm fields. This will be the first operation of its kind in the state of Michigan. (Photo: Shiawassee County Economic Development)

Shiawassee County provides an interesting value proposition for companies in the value added agriculture field. A rural community with a strong farming history, it is located on I-69 with multiple rail assets (Great Lakes Central, Genesee & Wyoming, and Canadian National), two nearby international airports (Bishop in Flint and Capital Region in Lansing) and a water port (via rail) to Lake Huron. There also is close proximity to major Midwest and Canadian markets (Chicago, Toronto, Indianapolis, Cleveland) and several large-scale land development sites available with infrastructure to meet project needs.

This unique combination of assets recently has led to the location of two major value added agriculture projects: Cargill and Prolime. The new facilities will combine to bring 100,000+ square feet of production space to the community, along with more than $20 million in investment and 50 jobs.

Cargill is preparing to begin operations of their new animal nutrition facility in the City of Owosso. Cargill’s animal nutrition business currently has 43 manufacturing facilities across the U.S. The plant will be the first Cargill animal feed manufacturing facility in Michigan. Shiawassee’s location in the center of Michigan’s dairy industry played a key part in the location decision.

“The City of Owosso and the Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership have been wonderful partners on this important investment project for us,” said Tom Taylor, a commercial director for Cargill’s animal feed business. “Additionally, this centrally-located facility will enable us to better serve the growing dairy population within Michigan, which is one of the top 10 dairy producing markets in the U.S.”

Several business, government and economic development partners were integral in helping move the project forward: the City of Owosso, Sonoco, MEDC, Great Lakes Central Railroad, Consumers Energy, CB Richard Ellis, Covenant Eyes, the Shiawassee EDP, MDOT, Rowe, VAA, Fessler-Bowman and Pumford Construction.

“On behalf of the local partners involved in this project, we are tremendously honored that Cargill has chosen Owosso as a home for one of its world-class facilities. This dynamic company provides many valuable goods and services to customers all over the world, and it is so exciting to know that they will now be producing some of these products right here in Shiawassee County. We also think this a great fit for our community, given our agricultural and manufacturing heritage, central location in the state and access to important transportation assets like the Great Lakes Central Railroad and Interstate 69. We wish Cargill the very best in this endeavor and look forward to helping them succeed in our community for many years to come,” said Justin Horvath, Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership President/CEO.

Agricultural and logistical advantages played a key part in the expansion of Prolime as well. The company has a long history with Shiawassee County where it has operated a drying operation for agricultural lime. As the next evolution of their process, the company will begin pelletizing lime for precision application in farm fields. This will be the first operation of its kind in the state of Michigan.

Prolime owner Bob Rogers shared his enthusiasm for the “high calcium, low magnesium, fast-acting” product he is making. He is hopeful that Prolime will be up and running come mid-spring 2018. The raw lime product, or spent lime, goes through a process where a binding agent (from tree sap) is added to the lime powder base and then eventually heated to form these pellets for farmers to utilize in the precision planting process. Essentially, there is less waste for the farmers since they do not have to condition an entire field—just the row in which particular crops are planted. Pellet-sized lime is a closed-loop production system, meaning there is no leftover waste.

Other successful companies that have recognized this value proposition and made significant capital investments in the county in recent years, include Kentucky-based Bluegrass Tank & Equipment which is spending several hundred thousand dollars to expand a dairy tank production facility, and I’m All Ears Popcorn, which opened a processing location where popcorn is harvested, processed, packaged and distributed with a focus on serving the movie theater industry.

If you are interested in learning more about Shiawassee County as an agribusiness destination, please contact Justin Horvath at (989) 725-9241 or


The Agriculture industry is making a big impact in the Hoosier state by partnering with Hoosier Energy electric cooperative.

Indiana has established itself as a destination of choice for direct foreign investment in manufacturing during the last few decades, but the state has never wavered from its agricultural powerhouse roots. Agriculture contributes $31 billion to the Hoosier State’s GDP annually, supports 107,500 jobs and puts the state 10th in the nation for products sold from its approximately 60,000 farms.

There is, in fact, more than corn in Indiana. The poultry industry contributes more than $4.25 billion to the state GDP, according to the Indiana State Poultry Association (ISPA). Factor in supplier and indirect impact and that number increases five to six times that amount. The industry also accounts for 7,000 poultry producing and processing jobs in Indiana.

The state boasts some impressive production numbers—according to the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, Indiana ranks no. 1 nationwide in duck production, No. 3 in egg production and No. 4 in turkey production.

Powering the industry in central and southern Indiana is Hoosier Energy. The generation and transmission cooperative provides electric power to 18 electric distribution cooperatives, which serve the approximately 480 farms and 22 processing plants associated with the poultry industry in their territory.

“The industry relies heavily on its power cooperatives for a consistent and efficient electric supply,” said ISPA Executive Vice President Paul Brennan.

“Properly running ventilation, feeding systems and lighting are critical to health and vitality of the animals, and that power is equally important in the processing plants to maintain operations that require precise temperature controls and no unexpected down time for equipment,” said Brennan.

“We are committed to the poultry growers and processors that make up such an important part of southern Indiana,” said Harold Gutzwiller, Manager of Economic Development and Key Accounts at Hoosier Energy. “We are constantly looking for ways to increase our services and proactively meet the needs of this industry, which range from rural farms to manufacturing facilities in urban areas.”

There’s an evolution going on in the egg industry to move to cage-free production, and Indiana-based Rose Acres Farms is at the forefront of embracing the innovations needed to meet consumer demands. Rose Acres is the No. 2 egg producer in the U.S. The Indiana company currently is at 15 percent cage-free production. Rose Acres is working closely with Hoosier Energy and its member, Jackson County REMC, to ensure that energy usage is on the cutting edge at its facilities.

Rose Acres’ patented system includes miles of egg belts, feeder chains and manure belts as well as robotic equipment. The system is unique, with no human hands touching the eggs from laying to placing them on a truck for shipping. This increase in technology means that reliable and responsive energy supply is essential to keep the operation running safely and efficiently.

Rose Acres’ multi-story facility being constructed in North Vernon will house 25,000 chickens at capacity and produce 313,000 eggs daily. Hoosier Energy Key Accounts Manager, Mike Owens, works with Rose Acres to help align energy needs with the company’s vision.

“We look at everything from lighting and ventilation to monitoring power factor and controlling peak usage times to help lower energy costs and make their facilities as efficient as possible,” said Owens.

Moving to cage-free production does not necessarily lower energy demands, so making improvements in facility design will be essential to maintaining costs while continuing the company’s traditions.

Melon Production: Indiana ranks No. 4 in the nation in cantaloupe production and No. 6 in watermelons. Leading the state in overall cropland production and currently ranked as the No. 1 producer of melons is Knox County, Indiana.

Knox County Development Corporation Director, Kent Utt, says the location ideally suits melon production. “More than anything, our area has great growing conditions; the sandy soil is ideal for cultivating crops and we also have great access to water, which makes irrigation easy and affordable,” he said.

Melon Acres, a lead producer in Knox County, includes more than 1,000 acres of cantaloupes, watermelon, sweet corn, cucumbers and asparagus, and a community supported agriculture program.

WIN Energy, a member distribution cooperative of Hoosier Energy, powers the melon farm. Automated irrigation systems increase energy demands and are crucial for the most robust and healthy crop production.

“Partnerships with WIN Energy and Hoosier Energy are vital in getting broadband to areas that lack coverage. They are great stewards of the community and are always looking for ways to improve our local community,” said Utt.

Hoosier Energy and its REMCs work diligently to support a wide range of agribusinesses across the southern half of the state, which spans central and southern Indiana and supplies electricity to 300,000 meters.