EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fourth in a series of monthly stories dedicated to Farmers Union Industries, and its seven businesses.Since 1988, Northland Choice has been delivering quality proteins for pet food companies.

Northland Choice uses fresh poultry from USDA-inspected edible facilities and converts it “into a variety of products suitable for multiple pet food manufacturing processes,” according to its website, northlandchoice.com.

Northland Choice is one of seven businesses owned by Farmers Union Industries, which is partially owned by North Dakota Farmers Union. It has three facilities in Minnesota — Waite Park, Redwood Falls and Long Prairie.

Division manager Chelsea Hussong said Northland Choice ships its high-quality chicken and turkey proteins in a variety of forms including: frozen block, fresh chilled and in tankers.

“The product that we’re making is such a high quality,” she said. “Some of our inbound material looks like it could be put on your barbecue grill. It’s awesome to work with that high of quality ingredients.”

Some pet foods need more fat, while others need to maximize protein. This means customers often request products with different specifications.

“For the most part, the industry is pretty standard,” Hussong said. “However, we have some customers who want a very specialized product. Thankfully, our plants have a lot of employees who have been with us a long time. They understand the importance of these parameters and have the knowledge to make the correct products from raw material. At the end of the day, it’s really about close teamwork with everyone involved to make sure we have the best possible product.”

Northland Choice’s facilities are all SQF Certified, which Hussong said is one of the highest quality audits available. In addition to industry audits, customers will also audit the facilities throughout the year.

“There is a lot of paperwork involved with making pet food ingredients,” Hussong said. “Everyone must constantly document and review each step of the process to ensure a safe finished product and safe working environment. The Waite Park facility has been an amazing example of this dedication to safety. They have gone over eight years without a lost time accident. It’s something we’re really proud of.”

The latest development for Northland Choice has been the addition of porcine proteins, which allows the company to expand within the pet food market.

“We’re definitely excited to add pork/boar to our lineup,” Hussong said.
To learn more, go to northlandchoice.com. To read more about Farmers Union Industries and its commitment to family farms, visit fuillc.com.

— Chris Aarhus, NDFU