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The Tyson Experience

In February, the top individuals and clubs in the 2014 College Aggies Online Scholarship Program traveled to Arkansas to visit with program sponsor Tyson Foods, Inc. Lauren Schlothauer, a student at New Mexico State University who earned second place individual in the competition, joins us as a guest blogger this week to share about the experience.

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The CAO group with Tyson’s ‘cow-chicken’.

I say experience – because this truly was an experience. You have to realize – I’m from New Mexico, I don’t fly very often and poultry really isn’t exactly my forte. All of these factors made this trip very memorable and my experience at Tyson and in Fayetteville was incredibly intriguing.

I flew into Arkansas about one o’clock in the afternoon. Upon landing, I rushed to one of the many large windows that overlooked the strip and began taking photos of the cattle grazing along the adjacent pasture. I love me some bovines. Yes – I got some chuckles from a few passersby, but trust me it was worth it. Next we had the opportunity to tour Crystal Bridges American Museum of Art. The contemporary building sets in the middle of a lake and the grounds are dotted with a variety of unique sculptures. I found this museum to be incredibly diverse as art from several distinct time periods and a multitude of mediums lined its halls. The life showcased in the bronzes through the talented hands of several artists was truly phenomenal.

tyson1I’m a HUGE fan of Norman Rockwell. He’s kind of my favorite. Ever since I was small we’ve had a book of some of his more notable works displayed on our coffee table and to be able to view one of his paintings in real life was astounding.

The next day (after some of the snow had cleared up) we had the opportunity to tour Tyson Headquarters! This to me was a touch daunting – simply because more people work here than attend my university. However, the people that worked here were all so sweet and excited that we were there to visit. We began the tour at the company museum where we got to see the quaint beginnings of Tyson and how it grew into the successful company it is today. We got an inside look at their corporate affairs office which also gave us the rare chance to see the room where all social media which is affiliating itself with Tyson is monitored. In addition to this we got to tour take our photo with the elusive cow-chicken. Yes, I’m saving this forever!

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The group being actively ‘Engaged’ during CFI’s training.

We concluded our first day at Tyson by participating in the Engage training from the Center for Food Integrity. It was an excellent way to practice advocating for agriculture successfully with our peers. What made this training different than other programs was the involvement we got to have with others who were also learning.

The next morning we got to tour Tyson’s Randall Road Cornish Plant. This was my first ever chance to tour a processing facility and it was probably my favorite part of the whole trip (even though they did feed us some pretty delicious food and let’s face it, I love to eat). I was incredibly impressed. The animal welfare was excellent, the employees were full of comradery and the USDA inspectors were excellent at their job.

Next we toured the discovery center and research and development. Here we got to see where new Tyson products are developed as well as how they test out an item’s packaging when integrated with how it will appear in stores.

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Tyson chemistry lab – where food safety and quality is top priority.

We also had the chance to travel to the chemistry labs where Tyson tests all of its samples from food, feedstuffs and farm visits to guarantee a healthy product makes it to your plate and that the nutrient information provided is accurate.

We ended our journey at Cobb-Vantress where we briefly had the opportunity to learn about how they are using selection to produce better chickens.

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Cobb-Vantress presentation on how selective breeding has improved poultry production.

I was given this opportunity because I received second place as an individual in the College Aggies Online program which takes place each September through December. This was the second of three trips that are all expenses paid in which I get to network with people never before possible, learn a ton and TRAVEL. All in all, it was a great trip. I got to meet some fantastic people and learn an awful lot about chickens. None of this would be possible without the College Aggies Online program or the generous sponsors (such as Tyson), or the neat people (Morgan, Hannah, Kay, Jack & Kyle). Thank you all so very much for the opportunity to experience Tyson. It is something I’ll be able to fondly carry with me forever.


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HSUS: Supporting humane shelters less than you think

Casey Whitaker, Alliance spring intern.

Casey Whitaker, Alliance spring intern.

Before I begin, let me introduce myself.  My name is Casey Whitaker and I graduated from Auburn University in December with a degree in agricultural communication before moving back home to Centreville, Virginia to intern with the Animal Agriculture Alliance. I am extremely fortunate to have landed an internship so soon after college and doing what I absolutely love – advocating for agriculture (and let’s face it, free rent for a few months is nothing to complain about).

Now, before you form any opinions about me, let me explain. I didn’t grow up on a farm, nor do I have family that farms. I open my bedroom window and can hear the cars zipping by on Route 29. You might be wondering, how did this girl end up working in the agriculture industry?

I grew up with the dream of becoming a veterinarian like a lot of children do. Then, chemistry happened and I changed my major like the majority of college students. I knew I wanted to stay within the College of Agriculture because it felt like home and I was truly interested in science and learning about agriculture and farming. I was always told I was a good writer, but it never dawned on me to seek a career where I could use my skill until someone introduced me to the agricultural communication program. It was like stepping foot on the Loveliest Village for the first time all over again (aka love at first sight, basically).

Before we get to what this blog is really about, let me tell you that I don’t like when people shove their ideas down my throat. It makes me want to tune people out no matter what they’re talking about. So, know that what I write is not meant to infuriate people, but rather to get them  to think and make informed decisions. Enjoy!

Image produced by Humane Watch.

Image produced by Humane Watch.

Do you donate to the Humane Society of the United States or know someone who does?  Then the fact that about one percent of their total budget goes to helping humane societies across the country may surprise you.

A map detailing shelter spending by state based on the Humane Society of the United State’s 2013 tax return has been swirling around on social media ever since HumaneWatch posted it to their website last week and according to the map, they don’t even help all 50 states.

If only about one percent of their budget helps humane societies, than where does the rest of their budget go? According to previous tax returns, they have invested about $25 million dollars of donor money into Caribbean hedge funds. This came as a shock to me as I hope it does to you. I mean, why invest money in the Caribbean when the animals are right here in the United States?

When faced with this hard truth, workers from the Humane Society don’t deny the fact because it is just that, fact. Their response is that they are not connected or affiliated with local animal shelters and are helping animals all over the country that are not just cats and dogs.

Then why does the Humane Society let the average donor believe that their hard-earned cash is going to support a helpless shelter animal? It’s because they need your money to support their hidden agenda. They claim they are protecting animals across the country, but their idea of protection is far-fetched. If the average citizen knew that they wanted to free all animals used for human entertainment such as zoo animals and for human consumption like farm animals, they know the donations they receive would stop.

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Mona Lisa picking out her new favorite show.

I’m all about treating animals humanely and with respect, but I’m not about to become a vegan like the majority of the workers at the Humane Society. I would bet the majority of the country wouldn’t want to give up meat forever either.

If you want to help shelter animals find homes and get the care they need, don’t donate to a Caribbean hedge fund. Donate to your local animal shelter that will actually use your donation to help the animals, or better yet, volunteer your time. I have been helping my family foster dogs for the past six years and it is the most rewarding and heart-warming experience when I am able to earn the trust of a scared and betrayed dog and find them a loving “furever” home as my mom calls it. Just last night I was able to get a shy cattle dog named Mona Lisa to watch Netflix with me in bed when before she wouldn’t even come up the stairs.

So the next time you see a commercial asking for your money to help a scared and helpless animal, think about the animals in your home town that you could be helping and maybe even watching Netflix with.