Saturday, October 8, 2011

Day 10 - Tuesday, October 4

Our guide through Schleswig-Holstein is Lennart Blunk who works for the Bauernverband Shleswig-Holstein E.V. (BVSH), which is another of the state associations, similar to the role CFB plays.  We started our visit to Shleswig-Holstein (SH) by visiting a slaughter house owned by the 100 year old company Danish Crown (DC).  As the name implies they are owned in Denmark and are located throughout the EU, their largest division is pork. The plant we were visiting was their beef slaughter house, which is the smaller division of the company with only one cattle plant.  The facility we were at was built in 1964, but bought by DC in 1997 after the previous owners bankruptcy.  They slaughter 100,000 cattle and 60,000 sheep annually and are deboning 140 tons of meat per day in a single 12 hour shift.  They are cutting to sub primals which go to supermarkets distributors and restaurants.
They slaughter everything from dairy cows which are past their milking to young bulls, the makeup is 70% cows to 30% bulls.  Much of the product is exported to Denmark to further sell worldwide, 30% is sold in Germany and 20% directly into Italy, Spain, Russia and Greece.
In addition to several accreditations, USDA and McDonalds each audit the plant for import standards to the U.S. as well as the standards McDonald's has deemed important. As in any packing facility hygienic standards are most important and many of the hygine systems are automated.  Most of the employees who work as deboners are Romanian and are paid on carcass yield which is why the cattle are often slaughtered one day and deboned within the next two days.  As we toured the plant, we saw their electronic grading system which is used as a standard against the meat grader, similar to a USDA grade their grading system is EUROP, with E being the highest grade and P the lowesst.  Most impressive was the entrance handling facilities to the knock box.  It is impressively designed with a lot of time an effort being put into cattle and sheep comfort and quietness of operation.  There is little noise and the cattle willing moved forward through the system.
Next we visited a small cheese processor who just had some New Yorkers visit that wanted to replicate a model of the plant outside of New York City.  The dairy is a farmer cooperative with 34 farmers delivering 50,000-60,000 kilos of milk a day within a 10 mile radius of the factory.  They make 28 specialty cheeses that are known for their natural flavor which comes from the caves beneath the factory. The cheese ripens in 4-6 weeks and is marketed as a branded product, under the name 'Gut Von Holstein' of Farmed from Holstein that is a parent label with seven other daries.  They sell the tilsiter style cheese directly to grocery stores and have been behind in production so they are looking at expanding their ripening caves. They only make cheese from cows milk, with is all pasteurized and none is sourced from organic farms.  They felt that the organic market was not their customers, who are typically older and are looking for their stronger tasting cheese.  They sell their cheese wholsale for 6€ per kilo (most cheese is 3€) , it is sold at retail for 12-15€.  Our tour ended with an opportunity to taste some of their wonderful product, which makes you realize immediately why they are so popular.
Finally we toured a 500 cow dairy that is new facility built six years ago.  The construction had a lot of North American influence, as did the cow herd.  They milk on a 50 cow carousel (rotating) milking parlor, which is similar to one the owner saw in southwest Iowa. They are a breeder of black and red holsteins and have built their genetics through importing U.S. and Canadian embryos and embryo transfer of the offspring.  He has sold bulls for semen and raised the current number two bull in Germany.  The dairy also has a biogas plant that uses manure and some silage.  The plant is basically a larger version of a cow's rumen, however it burns the methane produced to create 9.2 megawatts of electricity per day.  It is truely a loop system, the biogas needs cows for the manure, which decreased the smell through the methane digestion process and produces a high value nutrient to return to the land and grow more silage.  The biogas plant can run off just silage, but the owner feels that is a waste and biogas should be produced in a loop utilizing manure first.  He believes his system is better because all the manure can be used and it doesn't require as much silage and straw to "feed" the digester.  The dairy also uses its water efficiently.  The methane burner heats water which heats the biogas digester and supplies hot water to the dairy, the dairy also exchanges the heat of the milk to warm water it uses for cleaning.  It is a very complete system.  He would like to expand his dairy and has plans to add additional barns as well as build his home on the property.  We couldn't help but notice that the facility was also setup in a way that would be very accomodating for guests and visitors.  He feels he must communicate with his neighbors and customers.  Transparency creates trust.

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