SIOUX CITY | Temple Grandin, who overcame her autism to become one of the world's leading experts in the humane treatment of livestock, got her first chance Wednesday to see the state-of-the-art hog handling system she helped design in Sioux City.
Seaboard Triumph Foods invited Grandin to tour the $300 million plant that opened in early September in the Bridgeport West Business Park.
"We are going to do the rest of the plant tomorrow but we did the live animal handling and it was really good," Grandin said. "They've really built a nice facility. Really nice unloading bays where you can unload an entire truck inside the building and they've got seven loading bays so you're not going to wind up waiting. That's really, really good for pig welfare. It's a first-class facility."
Grandin, a professor at animal sciences at Colorado State University, has been a leading consultant for the livestock industry for 30 years, and has written two New York Times Best Sellers about animal welfare.
Grandin, who did not speak for the first 3 1/2 years of her life, also is one the country's leading spokeswomen and advocates for autism. She regularly speaks to groups about the disorder and the many children and adults on the spectrum with “differently-abled brains."
In 2010, HBO released a movie based on her life called “Temple Grandin” in which she was portrayed by Claire Danes. The movie received 15 Primetime Emmy nominations and won seven awards.
In the 1970s, she got her start in the livestock industry working in various Arizona stockyards. She began seeing flaws in livestock pens through a cow's eyes.
Mark Porter, STF’s chief operating officer, noted Grandin also is well-connected in the pork industry, and has previously consulted with both Seaboard Foods and Triumph Foods, which jointly own the Sioux City plant. Company officials relied on Grandin's expertise to design the stockyards for the 925,000-square-foot plant.
“With that very strong and long relationship, as the design was coming together specific to the stockyards and hog receiving, the design engineers asked Temple to look at it and offer some input and advice,” Porter said. “That’s becoming pretty common in the industry to ask Dr. Grandin her thoughts in terms of the latest and greatest in animal welfare.”
According to Porter, Grandin’s suggestions that were implemented at STF were more lighting to prevent shadows, a level floor and pins with no right angles; just curves to guide hogs through the receiving area.
“That all lends itself to improved humane handling, improved humane handling of the hogs and just the best possible experience,” Porter said. “We get the hog moved with the least amount of stress.”
About 10,000 pigs per day can be processed daily at STF, a figure that will more than double when the plant launches a second shift next summer that will eventually push its workforce above 2,000 employees.
"The thing that they did right compared to other places I've worked with is that they provided enough space in the building and didn't try to stuff the design into a space that's too small," Grandin said.