Up to speed and into the future

by Joel Crews
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With operations ramping up at Daily's new bacon plant in St. Joseph, Missouri, Plant Manager Wes Cowins (left) and Kelly Hattan are already making plans for more growth. 

During the first private media tour of Daily’s Premium Meats’ bacon plant in St. Joseph, Missouri, Wes Cowins is clearly proud of what has been accomplished so far. But the plant manager is downright giddy about the future. “This is my favorite part,” he says, just before opening a door to a wide open field, where two-thirds of the 16-acre property is still undeveloped, sitting idle under a thin blanket of December snow.

Back inside, is the result of a project that broke ground in May 2015 and just over a year later was operational. The $54 million, 114,500-sq.-ft. bacon-processing plant boasts a linear production line design with plenty of room for expansion. The company’s third bacon plant, this one is decidedly different, starts with the fact that the bellies it receives are sourced literally from across the street where Triumph Foods LLC’s massive pork slaughtering plant is located. In 2014, Triumph Foods invested $74 million for a 50 percent ownership share of Daily’s from its then-parent company, Seaboard Foods, based in Merriam, Kansas. It wasn’t long after the ink on the deal was dry when the decision was made to construct a plant in the Midwest. The goal was to expand the Daily’s brand to retail and foodservice markets east of Denver and supplement supplies of smoked bellies to its current plants in Missoula, Montana and Salt Lake City, Utah.

“Within the past two years, both (of those) plants are at capacity, which obviously allowed us to build this facility,” says Kelly Hattan, Daily’s president. And now that the ribbon has been cut in St. Joseph, “We’ll be feeding Salt Lake 23 million lbs. annually,” he adds.

 Dailys 2
The ribbon cutting ceremony at the new 114,500-sq.-ft. bacon plant opens the door for Daily's to extend its reach to customers in the Southeast and Northeast.

The plant has opened the door to grow Daily’s Southeast territory and serve customers in the Northeast, which has added 20 new markets to the Daily’s system. For 2017, the St. Joseph plant’s goals are modest but then become exponentially more aggressive. During its first year, officials expect the new facility to increase the company’s sliced bacon production by about 4 million lbs., but more significant growth is expected in years two through five, as the plant is designed to produce 1.25 million lbs. of product per week.

Hattan says once the eastern expansion of the brand began to explode, it didn’t make sense to just dip a toe in the water. With Acosta Foodservice as the broker for Daily’s products, once the parts were in place to take the products into the Southeast, Acosta officials confirmed there was no advantage to delaying expansion into the Northeast market, a challenge that was accepted by Hattan’s team and is well ahead of schedule.

The new plant initially hired 140 workers with a target of eventually adding about 80 more as capacity ramps up. Currently, two processing shifts and a sanitation shift are part of each day’s operation. The construction process was led by the same design-build firm that Triumph and Seaboard had worked with before, Chicago-based Epstein. In the name of efficiency, the plant was designed with the goal of creating a linear-based processing line, and that expandable, straight-line approach was achieved.

“They (Epstein) were instrumental in design and they were instrumental in babysitting each step of the build process and construction,” Hattan says. But once the construction process was complete and the focus was on start-up, it was Cowins and his team that spearheaded the heavy lifting.

“We moved into the office on May 27th,” Cowins recalls. The 15,000-sq.-ft. office portion of the plant includes a reception area, cubicles, private offices, conference rooms, a client demonstration kitchen as well as an employee welfare area comprised of locker rooms, restrooms and a lunch room.

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