A patent-pending, on-farm milling process transforms the produce into a homogenous slurry that blends well with other TMR ingredients, and can be ensiled and stored for later use. Jim Collins, industry relations consultant for Viridiun, works directly with state departments of agriculture and state veterinarians. The grocery blend is a licensed and registered feed product every state in which the company does business, meaning that it is subjected to rigorous safety testing for pathogens such as E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria. Even after clearing registration, the processed product is sampled at every farm at least once a month and tested for pathogens. William Reems, account manager for Viridiun, adds that daily samples also are pulled and frozen at every farm site to allow for trace-back evaluation if needed.
Collins points out that the grocery blend is a “pre-consumer” product because consumers have never taken possession of it, as opposed to post-consumer or “plate waste,” that has passed through consumer channels. Grocery store employees are trained on disposal protocols to ensure that meat and banned items do not contaminate the feed product. Trained employees also remove packaging, and the vessels that are used to collect and transport the discarded produce are locked to protect product safety and integrity. “We take a very hands-on approach to preserve the quality and consistency of the product,” says Collins.
Initial concerns about certain foods like garlic and onions creating off-flavors in milk have proven unfounded. “It’s not the same as when cows were grazing full-time and occasionally consumed a large batch of wild onions,” says Reems. “Because we have access to essentially all the same types of produce yeararound in this country, the makeup and flavor of the blend is highly consistent.”
When processing of the produce mix proved too cumbersome for standard TMR wagons, Viridiun developed a patent-pending milling system that chops the fruits and vegetables into bite-sized pieces. The result is a slurry that is the consistency of runny oatmeal, and the machines also have the ability to partition off moisture and add it back into the TMR as desired.
To ensure proper mixing, a Viridiun employee operates the milling machine at each farm location. As each batch is processed, they draw a sample at the beginning, middle and end of each load, and send one sample a week for laboratory nutrition analysis. Eventually, they see the potential for trained, on-farm employees to perform the milling and sampling procedures.