gw_sugar_ad

With the holiday spirit in tow, I know many parents are hoping, and some praying, that their children don’t eat their weight in sugar! While this advertisement my be outdated, and frightening to some parents (“instant energy!”)  it markets a good point to consumers. “You cannot buy a finer sugar in America!” For those of you in Northwestern Wyoming, you understand my statement fully; if you aren’t, stay tuned for some interesting and sweet finds.

As consumers it is important to understand the process and location of our food, from beginning stages to the final product, and we have demanded labeling of food to understand the origins. It adds value to the product knowing who helped create the products you use in your household and a sense of pride knowing it came from the United States and sometimes from our neighbors.

Driving through Northwest Wyoming you have a chance to see cattle, hay meadows, and farming across the landscape. It is a necessity and part to Wyoming’s heritage and agricultural industry. Generally, it’s these things that we think of first, but can you believe that we have a fairly large sweet tooth too? If you follow our Facebook page, RealRanchers.com, you read some interesting facts about Western Sugar Cooperative, located in Lovell, Wyoming. This plant supplies enough pounds of sugar, about 30,000,000 pounds to be exact, which is enough to make a very large amount of Snickers bars and pop.

Can you guess how many individual cans of pop and candy bars can be made out of that much sugar? As our guide asked us, most of us were grossly under estimating the amount, so guess high! If you guessed 500,000,000 you would be right.

Hard to believe that Wyoming helps curb the United States sweet tooth, but it is an industry and business that we all rely on in one way or another. Lovell, Wyoming is a part of that landscape and industry; home to Western Sugar Cooperative – Lovell Plant and Queen Bee Gardens, who we will feature in our next post. Each business very unique as well as sweet.

I have driven by Sugar Beet storage piles for years, but until last week never knew the process of extracting sugar, one of the 2,000 different chemicals, from the Sugar Beet. While the process is complicated  and fascinating, much of it hasn’t changed since the factory was built in 1916. The only changes made since the turn of the century is the addition of new equipment, automatic controls and  higher standards for the finished product.

Beet Sugar Process Flow Diagram - Starting upper left and ending lower right.

 
Beet Sugar Process Flow Diagram – Starting upper left and ending lower right.

At the Lovell Factory they slice about 3,000 tons of beets in one day during an individual campaign after the Sugar Beets have been harvested. This accumulates into about 900,00 pounds of sugar per day in batches of 60,000 pounds each.

According to the Lovell Chronicle, on February 9, 2012 the plant was, “…chugging along 24/7 in an effort to process the record-breaking yield of 38.9 tons per acre grown by local farmers this year.”

It’s hard to believe that much sugar comes from an unsuspecting Sugar Beet, but surprisingly only 17% sugar is found in the beet. Of that 17% – 84% is manufactured into white sugar and the rest creates molasses sugar. While on tour of the plant, we were lucky to see the process from start to finish and it is very interesting to watch the various process as they extract the sugar. Below are various pictures of the processes we saw – follow the captions for more information.

photo3

Shredded beet pulp coming from the slicer on a conveyor belt.

photo4

The motor and shaft, in the middle of the photo, turn a bin full of white sugar at high speeds to extract moisture called the White Centrifugal. This is towards the end of the processing of the sugar.

photo5

White sugar from White Centrifugal bin. The sugar is tacky and wet to the touch.

photo6

From the White Centrifugal bin, but this is molasses sugar. This sugar has a richer color and can be turned into molasses sugar or molasses syrup that we find in jars.

photo7

The sugar is put through this sifter, which also dries the sugar more, to create a uniform product.

photo8

The Fine Granulated Sugar fills BNSF rail cars after emptying into the Scale Tank.

photo9

Set of sugar bins – each 35′ in diameter and 165′ tall – which hold about 30,000,000 pounds of sugar. Enough sugar is made each campaign to fill the bins over three times!

After the beets are processed, the sugar is used for various products such as Snicker’s bars and soda, but it is also packaged as GW Sugar (beginning photo depicts). For every 2/3 cup of sugar used in the household for baking equals one average sized beet, which weighs between two and three pounds. Try it out this Christmas when baking sugar cookies with the kids to see if they can guess – Who knew agriculture could be so fun?

If you would like more information about the Beef Sugar Process Flow Diagram please follow this link. Each of the processes have full details that explain how they work and their purpose as the sugar is processed.

Please stay tuned for our next post about Queen Bee Gardens! This business is also out of Lovell, Wyoming and is known across Wyoming and the nation for their delicious honey made candies.