Triumph Foods' plant set to open late summer/fall.

The 625,000-sq.-ft., state-of-the-art Triumph Foods packing and processing plant at St. Joseph, MO, is slated to open its doors for business in the next few months, according to Jerry Lehenbauer, company vice president.

About 50 producers representing 342,000 sows across the Midwest own Triumph Foods. Members include some of the industry's top producers including Christensen Farms and New Fashion Pork based in Minnesota, the Hanor Company based in Wisconsin and TriOak Foods based in Iowa.

Others include Eichelberger Farms, a family-owned operation of 19,000 sows in Iowa and Allied Producers Cooperative, made up of more than 30 Midwest pork producers.

The company plans to focus on enhanced food safety and quality pork production. “Our members will be following a uniform set of production standards, including requirements for genetics, nutrition, animal health, animal welfare and food safety,” says Lehenbauer.

“In addition, nearly all of the market hogs delivered by our members will be produced with Triumph Foods' TR4 boar line,” he adds. “Triumph Foods directly controls the TR4 genetic improvement program, which uses an enhanced selection process and information technology system to improve the overall quality of our pork products. We are specifically focusing on leanness, color, texture and marbling.”

Triumph Foods will operate a single-shift production line designed to process in excess of 1,000 hogs/hour, says Lehenbauer. The plant is expected to employee 500 workers and double that number in the first year. Starting a second shift will be based on product sales and available workforce.

Products from the $130 million facility will be marketed and sold by Seaboard Farms, notes Lehenbauer.

The plant and corporate headquarters are being built on 60 acres in the St. Joseph industrial park.

Meadowbrook Farms' First Year

The year 2004 was the first full year of business for Meadowbrook Farms Cooperative, which operates a producer-owned slaughter and processing facility at Rantoul, IL.

The single-shift plant kills and fabricates 3,400 head of hogs a day, producing three million pounds of product a week, according to James Altemus, vice president in charge of marketing and information.

The plant lost money the first three quarters of 2004 due to mechanical start-up problems. But sales and profits improved in the last quarter of 2004 and on into 2005.

Branded pork products are being sold to retail stores from coast to coast, using the popular label slogan, “Farmer-Owned Means Farm Fresh Pork.”

Exports account for 13-14% of product sales. Altemus cites one particular export sales victory: a 20,000-lb. test shipment of chilled pork sold to Japan. The buyer called for a 45-day shelf life (18 days for shipment and 27 days in the store), which Meadowbrook was able to adhere to using its Cryovac vacuum packaging system and paying constant attention to plant hygiene and sanitation.

Meadowbrook touches both ends of the quality spectrum, supplying commodity products to retail outlets and high-end pork to well-known restaurants such as the Chicago Chop House, points out Altemus.

Antibiotic-free is a growing niche market. The Belleville, IL-based company is developing two certification programs. In the classic program, pork is produced without the use of antibiotics, growth hormones or stimulants, pesticides or animal by-products in the feed. The Heritage program involves free-range pork production.

Antibiotic-free pork products are being produced from about 800 hogs a week and shipped to consumers in the Northeast United States.

About 200 cooperative members supply Meadowbrook with hogs from across the Midwest.

Illinois Processor to Build

Carpentersville, IL-based pork processor Trim-Rite has announced plans to build a new slaughter plant just east of Freeport, IL.

The Illinois Department of Agri-culture awarded the processor a $300,000 grant in late March for site preparation.

When completed, the plant will kill 2,000 hogs a day and employ about 200 people. The plant is expected to open in 12-18 months.