I went on an awesome tour of the Michigan Sugar beet processing plant in Bay City, Michigan!
I interviewed Elizabeth Taylor, Ag Relations & Communications Manager at Michigan Sugar for the Michigan Grown, Michigan Great podcast I host for the Michigan Ag Council. (Just how many times can I say Michigan in a sentence?!) If you'd like to hear it, plus the other 80 + interviews, they are here: https://michigangrown.org/podcast/
Elizabeth mentioned they had tours, so my friend Julie (Bay City native and willing travel partner) and I immediately booked one.
It was fascinating. I absolutely love seeing how everything works, and this tour was so interesting! Like a lot of factories, pictures weren't always allowed, but I did take them where I could.
First, we drove up and saw all the trucks unloading sugar beets.
They float on water - so debris and rocks and such fall to the bottom - into the plant, where they are washed, cut into hash brown size, and the evaporation and crystallization steps happen. (For all the details, go here: https://www.michigansugar.com/growing-production/from-seed-to-shelf/)
My favorite part then happened, and we loved it so much, we watched it twice.
The crystallized sugar is spun around in a centrifuge, which spins out all the brown molasses that didn't crystalize. It was like magic ... it was like brown, in a spinner, then suddenly it was all white, perfect sugar.
The bagging part of it was also cool, because it was the same exact sugar going into different bags. Kroger, Meijer, Great Value, Pioneer - we watched them all bagged! (Jessica, our lovely tour guide, said that people often ask her why the sugar brands have different prices. She said that for instance Wal Mart buys so much Great Value sugar in bulk, that they get a lower price than another seller who isn't purchasing as much does.)
We got to taste test sugar right off the line, both brown sugar and white. Funny thing, though I love sugar in food, I don't really love tasting it straight.
I loved the control room where you could see all the amazing technology behind the process, also. The people working were all friendly and answered our questions, too.
We went to Cream & Sugar, a new ice cream place supplied by Michigan Sugar and Michigan Milk Producers Association. Julie and I got ice cream flights and it was some fantastic tasting ice cream.
I love a farm tour! If it ends in eating the product, all the better.
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