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IPB readies new beef plant

By Staff | Oct 24, 2014

Jeffrey Johnson, gesturing, IPB’s chief executive officer, tells reporters about the plants boiler during an Oct. 16 media tour of the new beef packing plant in Tama.

TAMA – “It’s the right area at the right time,” said Jeffrey Johnson, chief executive officer of Iowa Premium Beef.

He was speaking during a media tour of IPB’s revitalized packing plant in Tama.

Johnson said the opening continues to be planned for the end of October.

“We’re bringing the beef plants back into Iowa, where it’s ag-based,” he said. “People are excited about agriculture in Iowa, and we’re just another part of the agricultural community.”

His remarks came during an Oct. 16 media tour of the former Tama Pack facility.

An official ribbon-cutting ceremony was scheduled for Thursday morning.

Dean Hanish, vice president and chief financial officer, and Steve Armstrong, vice president of beef trim and fabrication, were among company officials accompanying Johnson on the tour.

Right now, Johnson said, there are 200 contractor employees and 120 IPB employees at work on the site completing a $47 million renovation and expansion.

When Phase I is operating fully, 1,100 head of cattle will be processed daily; plans are to ramp up to 2,000 head daily.

Six hundred people will be employed in Phase I, Johnson said.

“We’ve had five town hall meetings around central Iowa within the 150-mile radius,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of interest from the cattle feeders.

“Last year there was 650,000 cattle marketed within 100 miles of us, and 1.2 million head marked within a 150-mile radius.

“We’re going to buy $650 million worth of cattle in this 1,l00-head phase.”

It is important to understand the location of this beef facility, Johnson said.

“We’re right in the center of the No. 1 corn-producing state in the United States,” he said. “The cattle numbers are moving north, and the cattle numbers specifically in Iowa are going up.”

He stressed top quality cattle are the standard for buyers who will go to the family farm to buy.

Johnson said modernization and expansion of the plant has been geared toward food, employee and environmental safety.

“Iowa Premium Beef has spent a lot of time before coming to market on the environmental safety, on the worker safety, on product quality, on environmental issues,” Johnson said. “Our capital plan was entrenched in those items that when we do come to market it’s about compliance, it’s about quality, it’s about sustainability, it’s about continued improvement, – that’s what our model is.”

On the tour, Johnson noted innovative infrastructure systems including a boiler system using methane gas from plant lagoons to supplement the natural gas supply, which fires the boiler.

The methane capability is expected to reduce the natural gas usage by 25 to 30 percent, Johnson said.

Other features include animal safety, such as flexible floors in the cattle barn and prohibition electrical prods to move cattle.

He said the plant has a custom-designed information technology system which will allow for real-time reaction to problems and issues which are detected.

The new $7.5 million distribution center added to the front of the existing plant will enable IPB to store both fresh and frozen meat.

He said the executive management team has 140 years combined experience in the industry, much of it in start-ups and operations of regional plants.

Employees will undergo rigorous training to know what is expected of them with the focus on employee and food safety, and a quality product.

For the Tama-Toledo area, Johnson said, “We’re going to bring a tax base to this community.

“Trucking companies and other infrastructure will be coming into the community.”

Others in the plant’s leadership include:

A). Steven Armstrong, vice president of boxed beef and trim fabrication;

B). Lance Bartley, vice president of sales; and

C). Board of managers – Robert Evans, chairman; Bruce Rastetter; Steve Pearson; Tim Hussman and Justin Kirchoff.

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