N. J. baker gets jumbo-sized bread order

Sunday, March 25, 2007
Frank Formica, of Formica Brothers Bakery, stood in Atlantic City, N.J., on Friday with a cart of the loaves of bread he baked for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus elephants. Formica expects to bake nearly 320 loaves of the special mixture bread for the 10 elephants during the circus' four-day stay. (COLIN ARCHER ~ Associated Press)

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Frank Formica's task is bigger than a loaf of bread but smaller than an elephant. Actually, it IS a loaf of bread for an elephant.

Make that 300 loaves of bread for a half-dozen elephants.

His business, Formica Brothers, has a contract with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to bake 300 jumbo-sized loaves of special-recipe whole wheat bread for the elephants who'll be performing through the weekend at the city's Boardwalk Hall.

The high-fiber, two-foot-long loaves weigh 3 pounds each and are designed to help the elephants with their digestion. The first shipment was to be delivered Friday.

It's a tradition that dates back at least five years. When the circus first called the 91-year-old bakery, Formica thought it was one of his friends pulling his leg.

"I thought it had to be a joke -- come on, elephant bread? Right," he said.

"But they kept calling back like three or four times, saying, 'We're serious, we really need bread for the elephants,'" Formica recalled. "I didn't even know elephants ate bread."

But eat it they do, and with gusto.

"The trainers break it into large chunks and the elephants go right for it," said Formica.

The circus' order is specific: 100 loaves a day for three days of unsliced whole wheat bread that must be at least 25 percent whole wheat -- significantly more than regular whole wheat.

"They told me whole wheat is an essential element of their diet, and there can't be any preservatives or sugar," Formica said.

The price: $500 to $600 total.

It takes about 3 1/2 hours to mix and bake the bread, whose only ingredients are whole wheat flour, salt, yeast and water.

Formica Brothers bakes 30,000 loaves of all types of bread a day, and supplies most of the Boardwalk casinos and many local eateries.

The bread tastes much like a regular loaf of whole wheat, albeit a little stronger.

"We still make bread the same way my grandfather used to make it," Formica said. "Although I don't think he ever imagined we'd be feeding it to elephants."

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