Have you ever wondered what happens to your food after it leaves the farm, but before it hits the grocery shelves or lands on your plate at a restaurant? I assure you, you’re not the only one.
In search of answers to the great “food purgatory” mystery, I sat down with Angie Yarborough, Production Planner at our Berry Street plant in Springdale, AR. She coordinates the preparation of poultry products that come from local chicken farms to be delivered to stores and restaurants. Food preparation includes cutting meat down into smaller portions, sometimes marinating or breading, then packaging it up for delivery. I met up with Angie to get a first-hand experience of what a typical day looks like for her.
First things first: food safety. She put on a clean smock and hair net, then washed her hands. Providing safe and wholesome food is something Angie told me she values not only for her own family, but for the many other families she helps feed through her role at Tyson Foods.
Q: From farm to table, where does your job fit in?
I am providing fresh poultry products to grocery stores and restaurants around the country. It’s really humbling to think that a couple in California or a family in Florida is baking or roasting or frying chicken from this very plant—product that I was responsible for preparing safely. I’m also providing products to school lunch programs, which I take pride in, because I have grandchildren who eat at those schools. I know that anything I’m providing is quality product.
Q: Is there a specific reason you began working at Tyson Foods?
In 1990, I was a young single mom and took a job at Tyson Foods. The company actually helped me finish school. After two or three years, I realized that I really enjoyed what I was doing and decided to stay. I started out working on the frontline with some great leaders and supervisors. From there, I really embraced my role and rose up through the ranks. After 28 years, I really do love my job–it’s allowed me to take care of my family and put my kid through college. I come in and know I make a difference.
Q: What is one thing that might surprise people about your job in food preparation?
So much goes on here at the plant and so many people are involved in preparing the poultry. We have skilled team members helping with ingredients, quality control, packaging and shipping, slicing, dicing, fileting and deboning. It’s amazing to watch folks deboning by hand. We can debone eight birds per minute, per person. Truly, it’s amazing.
Q: How are products changing to meet evolving needs of consumers?
A couple years ago, Tyson Foods announced all Tyson branded chicken products would be raised with NO ANTIBIOTICS EVER (NAE), making us the world’s leading producer of NAE chicken. Now, we put “no antibiotics ever” labels on all our products. That’s a big deal! It’s our way of telling people we’re giving them everything that we’re promising.
Q: Have you recently been exposed to any new technology in the plant setting?
From starting here 28 years ago, I’m so amazed at where we’re at now with technology. One example is the ergonomic equipment that helps with heavy lifting and tedious tasks. It really takes the strain off our team members.
Q: What do you wish people knew?
I wish people knew how much everyone here really truly cares and wants to do a good job in their roles. We all make a conscious effort to do the right thing because we honestly care.
Published April 12, 2019.