Extra bacon

by Joel Crews
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 Missouri
There are a few Triumph Food plants in St. Joseph, Missouri, including Daily Premium Meats. 
 
High atop the west-facing bluff known as King Hill in St. Joseph, Missouri, visitors can enjoy a picturesque view of the Missouri River Valley. Pork and bacon lovers scanning the horizon from the overlook would be hard pressed to not notice the massive Triumph Foods’ plant stretching across the landscape, which opened in 2006. But since May 2015, almost in the shadow of the Triumph plant, another facility has emerged from the ground and just over a year later, Daily’s Premium Meats started up its new bacon processing plant there. During a June 15 luncheon sponsored by MEAT+POULTRY, manager of the new plant, Wes Cowins, took a break from the hectic rigors of managing the start-up and shared details of the project with a roomful of Kansas City-based industry suppliers. Prior to going to work at Daily’s in 2012, Cowins worked for several high-profile food companies, including Hormel Foods, American Foods Group and Smithfield Foods. His career at Daily’s began when he was hired as the production manager at the company’s Missoula, Montana, plant.

 

With plans of starting up operations in late July, including processing products on a test basis around July 20, the plant will have a capacity of 60 million lbs. of raw bacon once it is up and running. Much of that capacity (34 million lbs.) is already committed to customers and Cowins and his team are planning for an expansion and even more production.

“We’re essentially at half the smoking capacity of the building and we’re not even open yet,” he said.

The 114,000-sq.-ft., $53 million first phase of the new plant represents an opportunity to grow Daily’s as a retail brand in new territories while allowing its two legacy plants to become more efficient and continue serving its core foodservice customers. Phase 2 of the St. Joseph facility is expected to add up to 98,000 sq. ft. of processing space and work will likely begin sooner than anyone could have expected.

Once the plant was released by the contractor, production was expected to ramp up rapidly. Cowins said the first 15 days were to be dedicated to producing and shipping smoked, slab bellies to Daily’s Salt Lake City, Utah, plant, where the process of smoking bellies is outpaced by its slicing capacity, creating a void that was previously filled by slicing for a co-packing partner.

“It will be a good test of the front half of our process before we move into slice,” said Cowins of the first few weeks of production. Within 45 days of opening, Cowins’ team planned to grow into the slicing department and within 60 days, the plan was to move retail production from Daily’s original plant in Missoula to St. Joseph, where efficiencies will be improved dramatically.

“We’ll be able to run in one day what they are running in an entire week up in Missoula,” Cowins said. Daily’s manufactures signature honey cured bacon and Applewood smoked bacon, and also offers smoked hams and breakfast sausages that are currently co-packed. With the new facility coming online, that arrangement may be brought in-house in the future.

Daily’s Premium Meats is jointly owned, 50/50, by its neighbor, Triumph Foods and Seaboard Foods, based in Merriam, Kansas. Besides the new bacon plant in St. Joseph, the ownership team is also building a $264 million hog processing plant, known as STF, in Sioux City, Iowa, which is slated to open in the summer of 2017.

Raw materials used by Daily’s facilities are strictly controlled due to the vertically integrated business structure of Seaboard Corp. The new Daily’s plant is just across the street from the other half of its ownership team, Triumph Foods, which is similarly vertically integrated with a group of hog producers owning the processing plant. Triumph’s expansive plant is the basis for the new facility being built in Sioux City. It employs 2,800 workers.

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