Also important to the company’s success are its consistently high audit scores. Of 15 audits in 2009, the lowest score was 98.3%. The company has never scored below a “superior” rating on a good manufacturing process and hygiene audit and has always scored 100% on animal welfare audits. In addition, the company uses the reports from third-party auditors like Silliker to implement changes in its program. “Emerging issues are usually picked up by those third-party auditing firms, and it’s something you can include in your program, so they’re very beneficial,” Conklin said. Michigan Turkey Producers has also implemented seven hazard analysis and critical control point programs between its two facilities.
[Success] doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and we wouldn’t be as successful as we are today if it weren’t for so many wonderful companies out there to work with.
Tina conklin, corporate quality assurance manager, Michigan Turkey Producers
The company’s vendors have also contributed to Michigan Turkey Producers’ accomplishments. Conklin mentioned, among others:
- Midway Machine, which built the stunning system;
- Riteway plumbing, for all of the stainless drains and proper routing of water throughout the plant;
- C&T Fabrication, which designed and built the chiller transfers;
- Diversified Laboratories for prescreening of flocks;
- Neogen Corporation, which assists with rapid prescreen pathogen detection; and
- Alliance Analytical Laboratories for pathogen testing and help with in-plant validations.
“[Success] doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and we wouldn’t be as successful as we are today if it weren’t for so many wonderful companies out there to work with,” Conklin said.
The company has been aggressive with purchasing equipment that it knows will provide a return on investment. In the case of its 2009 investments, Michigan Turkey Producers faced a financial hurdle because of overproduction and uncommonly high corn costs in 2007 and 2008. Despite the higher costs and lower revenue, the board of directors approved the purchase of the slicer and an in-process cooler in the cook plant.
“We typically, as an organization, are not shy about taking a chance and putting our money out there if we think it’s going to pay back later,” Lennon said. “And we’ve done that again and again during the last 10 years we’ve been here.”
Humane practices and attention to animal welfare have also helped the company to provide high-quality, safe products. “I firmly believe there is a direct correlation between animal welfare practices, good animal handling, and quality and food safety,” Conklin said. “The benefits of [our] humane handling system … are wonderful, and I wish everybody would invest in that end of their business, because they’ll see rewards on the other end.” ■