Rose Acre Farms opens new testing lab

Rose Acre Farms recently started operations in its new testing lab located near the corporate office in Seymour.

The facility previously was housed at the egg company’s former headquarters west of Cortland.

The lab is used to test various types of samples from all of the company’s layer, breeder and pullet farms. Testing is done for all types of pathogens but primarily focuses on salmonella and specifically salmonella enteritidis as mandated by the Food and Drug Administration beginning in 2009.

The building was purchased by Rose Acre Farms more than two years ago and periodically was used as storage by various departments. After a period of renovation, the lab crew started bringing in equipment in January, and the first samples were tested March 25.

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Lab manager Wanda White was asked for her input on the layout of the new facility.

“They let us decide what we wanted and said, ‘Do what you want and make it nice,’” she said. “I came up with at least 10 different layout designs for this building.”

White said the new facility makes more sense logistically being located close to the Rose Acre Farms corporate office. The new facility also has more storage space and is more secure in terms of biosecurity.

“When you come up with each design, you start to see what does work and what doesn’t work,” White said. “We have more control and more space. Everything functions better here.”

The building was renovated by Matt Darlage and John Wetzel of J and M Construction. Rose Acre Farms’ own Ron Pranger along with other electricians designed and installed the electrical, heating and air for the building.

“The actual construction was a collaboration between their suggestions and what we thought would work,” White said. “Eventually, this is what we came up with, and it’s perfect to me.”

White is joined by technician Casie Willman in the lab. Willman does a majority of the testing, and White schedules when samples are taken at the farms. The lab tests anywhere from 150 to 200 samples a week.

“I think we’re a really good team,” Willman said. “We know exactly what we need to do and what needs to happen when a sample comes in.”

Both White and Willman feel that having this testing lab helps separate Rose Acre Farms from its competition.

“Customers want to know that their products come from a suitable environment,” White said. “I feel that we do a very good job here. We are one of the only family-owned companies with a lab that does what we do.”

The new Rose Acre Farms lab goes through a certification process every year. In previous certifications, the lab was ranked among the top labs in the state.

“Ranking up there with all of those state labs is an important component of our company because it shows we are just as capable of the same type of testing as they are,” White said.

Occasionally, customers request that a third-party lab do sample testing for pathogens at the layer farms. White expects this practice will become obsolete because of the capabilities at the new lab.

“I see us eventually not needing a third-party lab’s opinion for any type of testing,” she said. “We are just as good as other labs, and we can do all the testing that they do.”

White and Willman have been working together in the lab since 2012. They have been with Rose Acre Farms for 34 and 15 years, respectively.

White’s favorite aspect of the job includes the variety of jobs offered by the company.

“I feel like I’ve grown with the company,” she said. “There’s enough variety within the company to do a different job if I felt I needed a change. I’ve learned a lot.”

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