Beef plant funding reaches potential for full production, more hiring

Farm Forum

Northern Beef Packers completed its final round of financing on Jan. 9, bringing the total amount of capital raised to more than $150 million, said Laure Swanson, marketing and public relations director.

“This is important because this is the amount we need to run the plant and move forward,” she said. “It includes working capital. In the past, we have had some financial delays. Now with this last phase, it will take us to where we really need for our operation.”

Since construction on the plant began six years ago, Northern Beef had difficulty in securing all the financing it needed.

Now the plant has the financial resources to get to full production, Swanson said.

Northern Beef has hired more than 350 employees and will continue to grow its skilled work force to more than 500 employees in the weeks ahead as production continues to increase, according to a news release.

At full capacity, the plant is capable of slaughtering 1,500 head of cattle per shift, producing more than 1 million pounds of boxed beef and beef by-products per day.

The plant and equipment have an estimated value of about $109 million. The $150 million gives the plant more money for operations, working capital and the ability to meet the growing global demand for high-quality, American-raised beef, she said.

During Northern Beef’s initial start-up, Hartley Ranch Angus Beef, a distributor of Angus beef, has been its biggest customer. Hartley Ranch Angus Beef has committed to being a long-term customer, according to the release.

Northern Beef packages large por

tions of beef in boxes. Companies like Hartley Ranch then repackage and distribute it.

“We don’t cut the individual steaks,” Swanson said. “It is our customers that do the next step of portion control.”

While Northern Beef has all the equipment to grind hamburger, it is not doing so because production levels are not high enough yet. Currently there are not enough trimmings for ground beef production, she said.

When grinding begins, the hamburger will be packaged in 1-, 3-, 5- and 10-pound tubes.

Northern Beef has added a number of customers in recent weeks and will continue to add customers as more product becomes available, according to the news release.

Swanson declined to comment on how many cattle are being slaughtered at the plant.

“We are not releasing the number of cattle we are processing a day, because we are concentrating on worker training,” she said. “Our No. 1 priority is food safety and training our workers to perfect their skills.”

Northern Beef is the first beef processing plant to be built in more than 30 years, she said, and it has incorporated the latest technology and efficiencies.

“This is especially true for food safety interventions, such as the many washes involved,” she said. “We have incorporated many more procedures than the standards require.”

Northern Beef has one production shift from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

There are seven USDA food inspectors on site, she said.

Swanson said initial feedback from customers has been very positive and that the plant has had new customers seek it out because of the quality of the product.

The cattle are being supplied by area beef producers.

“We have had plenty of cattle, and so far it has been good,” Swanson said. “As production increases, the plant will need more cattle. We encourage cattle producers to contact our cattle buyer.”

See FUNDS, Page 6F