WICHITA, Kan. – On the afternoon of July 14, several members of the press, including Meat&Poultry, were given a sneak preview of the new Cargill Innovation Center in Wichita, Kan. Scott Eilert, Ph.D., Cargill Innovation Center vice president, and Matthew Smith, Innovation Leader, Cargill Animal Nutrition, Animal Protein and Salt, Hopkins, Minn., led the tour.

Although the official debut of the center began at 10:30 a.m. on July 15 for invited guests only as well as dignitaries, Cargill was eager to show-off its $14.7 million, 75,000-sq.-ft. center, which is located one block away from the headquarters of several Cargill businesses it supports. These businesses include the second-largest beef processor in the US, third-largest turkey processor and fourth-largest pork processor, in addition to a business that serves the foodservice industry, another that distributes food to small retailers, one that is responsible for much of the ground beef American consumers eat and another that produces case-ready products for retail customers. The innovation center also works closely with several other Cargill businesses such as its salt, egg, dressings, sauces, oils and food ingredients group.

The new, two-story structure houses the following on its ground floor: a pilot plant-ready-to-eat; pilot plant-tenderness; pilot plant-smoke generator; pilot plant-fryer; pilot plant-raw; ingredient seasoning room; shelf-life area; microbiology lab; chemistry lab; Cargill conference room; foodservice presentation area; retail presentation area; McMillan conference room; and the Innovation conference center. The second floor contains a pathogen lab; collaboration room; and the Imagination room.

The center’s 11,000-sq.-ft. USDA-inspected processing facility is where Cargill produces raw and ready-to-eat meat products and refines packaging requirements on a smaller scale for research, development and applications purposes. Utilizing the latest meat-cutting and processing equipment, highly trained scientists and technicians work with customers to test and formulate product solutions unique to their needs.

The retail presentation room is where chefs test consumer products and recipes in simulated, real-world environments such as a grocery store meat case, convenience store, deli counter and full-scale home kitchen. The foodservice presentation room replicates an actual restaurant setting where chefs work with foodservice customers on culinary solutions to their unique needs. Its expansive kitchen is complete with a full array of top-line foodservice equipment.

Approximately 70 Cargill associates work at the innovation center, including professional chefs who work with customers to develop new products as well as improving existing products. Cargill’s meat businesses employ approximately 1,000 people in downtown Wichita.

“This is a discovery zone, a place where the art and science of food intersect to advance food quality, nutrition, meat production, food safety and packaging, while also employing a creative flair in the areas of new product development and finding solutions to meet our customers’ needs and expectations,” Eilert said.

Read more about the new Cargill Innovation Center in the August issue of MEAT&POULTRY.