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Michigan soybean grower visits Dubai to showcase U.S. products
By Stan Maddux
Indiana Correspondent

COLON, Mich. – A Michigan soybean producer was part of an effort to increase U.S. poultry exports during an event in the Middle East where over 190 countries were represented.
Sara Trattles was among the representatives from the Michigan Soybean Committee (MSC) attending Gulfood, the world’s largest annual food, beverage and hospitality show in the United Arab Emirates.
Her trip to Dubai, which is that nation’s capital, was through a partnership between MSC and the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council.
Trattles said the main purpose of the trip was to showcase the value of Michigan soybeans to the U.S. poultry industry to increase U.S. poultry exports to countries represented at the annual Feb. 19-23 event.
There were more than 5,500 major global exhibitors at the show attended by nearly 150,000 people.
Trattles said more U.S. poultry exports would mean higher demand for soybeans.
According to MSC, poultry eats over 60 percent of the soybean meal produced in the U.S. as feed for livestock.
“If we can do something within our state to help exports then it’s kind of a win for all of us,” she said.
Another reason for the trip was to see the MSC-sponsored show pavilion, which hosted a record 18 exhibiting members working to promote the export of U.S. poultry products.
The pavilion also hosted many meetings between representatives of USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service and other industry leaders, along with stakeholders from other countries such as India.
According to MSC, the emphasis of their conversations was how the U.S. can position themselves as providers of high-quality poultry products able to meet the needs for buyers from around the globe.
Trattles said one of the many things she learned was how important the packaging of poultry is to exports.
For example, how packaged chicken quarters look after delivery from the U.S., Brazil or some other country has influence in choosing a foreign poultry or meat provider. “Sometimes it doesn’t look so pleasant,” she said.
As a result, Trattles said MSC and Michigan State University are discussing the possibility of doing a study about the packaging of food to try to gain more of an edge in the global competition.
“We’re in talks. Nothing is committed yet,” she said.
It was the first trip overseas for Trattles, who was appointed to the MSC board of directors by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in late November.
Trattles, 45, said she was invited by the MSC to attend Gulfood, but she didn’t accept the request until the next day after gaining the support of her family. “I think it was a chance of a lifetime,” she said.
Trattles said there were also displays for the beef, lamb and dairy sectors of the industry but not so much for pork since that choice of meat isn’t as popular in that region of the world.
Other foods showcased included snack meats, nuts and dried fruit.
She was taken back somewhat by the different cultures reflected at the event along with an exhibit of meat from Russia, which made her think about the devastation from the ongoing military conflict between that nation and Ukraine.
Italy was another country she recalled as having a major agricultural presence at the show.
She spent two days at the five-day event mostly learning and doing some light promoting of Michigan soybeans.
The rest of her time was spent touring the city of over three million people with stops that included a grocery store, which offered a mix of typical and unusual products not seen in supermarkets in this country like small bags of soybeans.
“I’m not sure what they do with that, whether they boil them or make tofu,” she said.
Trattles grew up on a farm raising mostly corn and soybeans in Dowagiac in the southwest part of the state.
She studied agricultural science and agricultural business at Michigan State University then worked for MSU extension for five years.
During that period, she met her future husband, who now operates the corn and soybean farm he grew up on in Colon, roughly 40 miles east from where Trattles was raised.
She later took a position at GreenStone Farm Credit Services, which offers things like farm loans at close to 40 locations throughout Michigan and northeast Wisconsin.
Trattles is employed at the nearby Schoolcraft branch.
“I’ve been to a lot of trade shows but nothing quite that big. It was interesting to see the international experience,” she said.