It’s not every day I get the opportunity to meet some of the poultry industry’s biggest icons, but it happened the day I toured the newly opened Pilgrim’s Pride in Nashville, AR. There I had the pleasure of sharing part of my tour with a group of retired Pilgrim’s Pride and Tyson Foods executives.
Among them was Leland Tollett, who served as CEO of Tyson from 1991 to 1998 after gaining more than 30 years in the company’s broiler division. Being born and raised in the small town of Nashville — population: 4,500 — he was excited to get a look “under the hood” of his hometown’s newest feed mill. Tollett arrived with friends Monty Henderson, who retired from a long career with Gerorge’s Inc., Tyson Foods and Pilgrim’s Pride; and Bob Hendricks, former president of Pilgrim’s Pride.
They were all amazed by how much feed production had changed since they left the business. All of the mixing, milling and grinding equipment was bigger and faster than they’d ever seen. And the receiving and conveying equipment at the state-of-the-art facility was “lightning fast,” one of them remarked.
The automated control system was the most exciting though, as they marveled over how easy it is to run batching systems and load-out these days, thanks to technology. They even joked that a computer could run the entire mill itself.
But while automation brings a wealth of benefits, I shudder to think it could completely replace the people that make up the feed industry. They are progressive, passionate about their industry, and strongly dedicated to their jobs. Asking to tour a new feed mill more than 20 years after retiring from the industry is a perfect example of what it means to always stay curious and never stop learning! ■