Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Food Safety Forum

The Food Safety Forum is back after a sell-out in 2008. This forum will be held on a bigger scale in 2010, to address the full spectrum of food safety issues from farm to fork. There are challenges at every step and the possible solutions that leading experts and practitioners have will be presented.

For more information and to register, click here or visit http://www.foodnhotelasia.com/food_safety_forum.htm.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Charoen Pokphand Foods (CPF) Trip, Thailand

Charoen Pokphand Foods (CPF) Trip, Thailand

21 February – I was surprised when I was called up by chefs, and asked if I was available on the first to third of March, for the educational trip to Thailand. Without much thought, I said I would loved to, but on second thoughts I was afraid that I would not be approved of my leave. (Thankfully I had my leave approved.) Afterwards, I learnt that it would be a visit to the Charoen Pokphand Foods (CPF) group, the leading agro-industrial and food conglomerate of Thailand.

1 March, Day 1 – We gathered at the wee hours of the morning for breakfast and checked in at the airport. This is where our journey begins….

Touching down in Thailand, we were greeted by “chaperons” from CP who would be taking us around during our entire visit. We were then split into 2 groups, for easier maneuvering.

We headed south to our first “food stop” for lunch at Pattaya, where we were treated to fantastic seafood, by the beach. It was heaven… with the sea breeze, the sun and good food.

It was then followed by a long ride, where we arrived at the shrimp farm, our official first stop, the Roi-Petch Shrimp Farm. It was well equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and technology, with an automated system in place to ensure optimal breeding conditions of the White CP Shrimp. Ensuring the strictest controls to maintain cleanliness and hygiene. Before entering the bio-security area, we were required to don lab coats and rubber boots, followed with a strict regime of sanitizing our hands and boots. These serve as preventive measures to limit the risk of introducing any pathogens which would compromise the breeding and quality of the shrimps in the farm.

Here, where we learnt that the 480 hectare shrimp farm houses shrimps in different modules of which the shrimp are cultivated; from in the Nursery Phase (25 days), Intermediate Phase (50 days) and the Grow out Phase (50 days), producing up to 15MT per pond/crop.

We then headed to our hotel, checked-in and went for yet another wonderful meal, by the beach.

2 March, Day 2 – Right after our breakfast, we headed straight to the shrimp processing and R&D Centre. The shrimps that we saw at the shrimp farm just the day before, arrived at almost the same time, and were headed for noble cause. At the processing line, we saw the various methods of which the shrimps are processed to what we would find on our plates. Marinated, skewered, battered, bread-crumbed, whatever you name it.

We then sampled a total of 13 of their shrimp products, not forgetting their famous CP Shrimp Wanton. It was a most enjoyable experience, and coming from someone like me who previously did not really enjoy seafood it definitely goes to show the quality and freshness of the ingredients used, as well as the immense effort and dedication that their chefs put into preparing the dishes.

Heading northwards to the next destination, we had another long ride, checked in to our hotels, and headed out for dinner. This time, we met with more of the staff from CP, who came all the way from Bangkok.

3 March, Day 3 - Following the day of the shrimps, we went to CP's chicken slaughter house. Thankfully it was a quick ride from our hotel to the slaughter house and shrimp farm. With my previous encounter in KL where I learnt of how chickens were slaughtered the “old-fashioned way”, it was with a heavy heart when I left for the farm, not knowing what to expect. But thankfully, we arrived at yet another integrated farm, of which we were briefed of the life of "the Happy Chicken", from hatching to shackling. We were assured of CPF's humane and efficient practices, from the Feed mill, Hatchery, Farms to the processing plant. Every procedure was well-organised and closely monitored to ensure the efficiency of their company, where even simple steps such as the sending of chickens from farm to plant are tracked with the use of latest onboard GPS systems in the delivery trucks.

On a tour around the processing and further processing plant, we also got to see the entire process, from livestock to final packaged product. Surprisingly, the tour lasted a short span of only a few hours. This goes to show that the processed products are handled very efficiently, with automated systems in place, to minimize human contact, ensuring that the products that are sold are sterile and fit for consumption.

After the quick tour, our hungry stomachs were treated to a scrumptious lunch, specially prepared by the CPF Main kitchen brigade chefs, whom are also actively involved in the Thai Chefs Association. Utilizing mainly CP chicken products, we tucked ourselves in to finger-licking goodness, with dishes using products like the roasted chicken breast steak and the spicy fried half cut middle wings. The dishes were tasty and well presented, highlighting the freshness and quality of CP Chicken high tech farming & processing techniques with every course served.

Following our lunch, it was time that we had to head back to the airport… Despite being only a short three-day tour, we had a packed itinerary full of learning and mouth-watering experiences. It was an honour to visit CP Food farms and processing plants together with the seniors of the Singapore Chefs Association, and Celebrity Chef Forest Leong, who is also the ambassador for CP in Singapore, to learn about its brand, products, and processes.

With this short trip to CPF’s farms and processing plants which was a one-of-a-kind learning experience, we carried along with us a better knowledge of Charoen Pokphand Foods, the CP brand and its products, and how stringent it is in its quality control. I now look at CP with a different light and understanding.

By Belinda Ng, Singapore Junior Chefs' Club