During a June 15 luncheon sponsored by MEAT+POULTRY, Wes Cowins, manager of the new plant, took a break from the chaos of managing the start-up and shared details of the of the project with a roomful of Kansas City-based industry suppliers. He pointed out that the additional capacity at the St. Joseph plant (34 million lbs.) is already committed to customers and plans for an expansion of up to 98,000 additional sq. ft. and even more production can’t come soon enough.
|Wes Cowins, plant manager, Daily’s Premium Meats|
“We’re essentially at half the smoking capacity of the building and we’re not even open yet,” he said.
The Missouri plant is Daily’s third bacon processing plant, which include one in Missoula, Montana, and another in Salt Lake City, Utah. As part of the start-up, Cowins said the first 15 days were dedicated to producing and shipping smoked, slab bellies to the Salt Lake City plant, where the process of smoking bellies is outpaced by its slicing capacity, and the void was previously filled by a co-packing partner.
“It will be a good test of the front half of our process before we move into slice,” said Cowins. Within 45 days of opening, Cowin’s team planned to grow into the slicing department. 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 roots date back to 1893 when John R. Daily and his business partner opened a retail meat shop, the Union Market, in the heart of Missoula.
“It started as a small butcher shop up there on Main Street,” Cowins said, and Daily’s Premium Meats evolved from there. The company’s Missoula plant was built in 1963, and initially it was a slaughtering and processing facility for a variety of species. In the 1980s the company turned its focus to bacon only with the next decade bought a bankrupt sausage plant which was converted to the bacon plant in Utah. The addition of the St. Joseph facility will more than double Daily’s raw capacity. As demand for bacon continues to grow, said Cowins, plans for an expansion are underway. With raw production the focus of the operation initially, the expansion would add pre-cooked bacon to the mix.
All of Daily’s bacon is hardwood smoked, and the uncompromising focus on the quality of the bacon, “it’s right there in our name,” Cowins said, “we are Daily’s Premium Meats.”
Raw materials used by Daily’s facilities are strictly controlled due to the vertically integrated business structures of Seaboard and Triumph Foods. Part of the attention to quality goes back to the raw materials, including the fact that all of Daily’s bacon is made from zero-scribe bellies that are never frozen. Another differentiating factor is the company’s made-to-order production.
“We have zero raw bacon inventory in stock that we pull from,” Cowins said.
Orders are taken up until noon for the next day’s shipments. “I couldn’t tell you today if I’m going to be slicing 3,000 cases of bacon (tomorrow) or if I’m going to be slicing 12,000 cases,” he said, which creates production challenges, but ensures customers get the freshest possible bacon. “We’d also rather our customers not put our product in the freezer before they serve it to their customers.”
While the company’s sales have historically been focused on foodservice customers on the West Coast and in the Northwest, the addition of the St. Joseph plant allows the company to reach new territories it previously couldn’t logistically service. For example, sales territories in the Great Lakes region were slated to open in July and as of August, new customers in the Southeast will be offered Daily’s products. Prior to the new plant coming online, 95 percent of Daily’s sales were to foodservice customers. But with increased capacity and plans for even more growth, retail product sales under the Daily’s name are part of the strategy in the future.
“It’s an exciting time for us as an organization to introduce our product into markets that, in many cases, don’t yet know who we are,” Cowins said.