Final engineering plans are underway to build a $25 million, 90,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art pork processing plant for American Premium Foods Inc. in Rantoul, IL. The Illinois cooperative is comprised of 160 family farms.

About three months of engineering work remains, meaning groundbreaking could occur in May, says Jim Burke, cooperative general manager. The plant is scheduled to open in June 2003 and be in full production by October of that year.

So far, cooperative members have raised almost $9.5 million in equity for the project, says Burke. The remaining 18% of the shares are available to any independent pork producer who can meet the cooperative's quality standards. “Shares are being sold for $900 each, which entitles a producer to deliver 50 hogs per [share per] year to the plant,” he adds.

The plant will focus primarily on the production of high quality, specialty food items such as fresh sausage and case-ready, branded pork for grocery stores and restaurants.

The plant will open with a single shift of 210 employees slaughtering and processing 3,000 hogs/day.