GREELEY, COLO. – Mountain States Rosen declined an offer from JBS USA, a unit of São Paulo, Brazil-based JBS S.A., to lease back a lamb processing plant sold during a bankruptcy auction, a spokesman for JBS USA said.

In a statement to MEAT+POULTRY, Cameron Bruett said that while JBS USA successfully bid for the lamb facility during the July 16 auction, the company did not acquire Mountain States Rosen’s business. MSR filed for bankruptcy in April and liquidated its assets, including the lamb processing facility in Greeley, Colo.

“During this process, we proactively worked with Mountain States Rosen to ensure there would be no disruption to US lamb producers as operations were discontinued. Last week, we offered to lease back the facility to the former owners for 90 days to ensure continuity for local producers, but we were informed this was unnecessary given the opening of a new lamb processing plant in the region this fall. This was our fourth offer over the last few weeks to continue operating the facility as a lamb plant on behalf of producers.”

Colorado Lamb Processors is set to open a new processing plant in Brush, Colo., roughly one hour away from Greeley. The plant initially will harvest a small number of animals that the company plans to sell to customers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey where fabrication of the animals will be completed. Construction on the plant has been delayed due to coronavirus-related challenges. Speaking to The Fence Post, Mike Harper, a partner in the lamb plant, said the plant is designed to hold 1,800 carcasses in its coolers at full capacity. The company anticipates reaching full capacity by 2021.

However, in a letter to Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, Department of Justice Antitrust Division, federal lawmakers from both chambers of Congress expressed concerns about JBS USA’s plan to convert the lamb processing operation to a value-added beef operation.

“In addition to eliminating hundreds of jobs, MSR’s Greeley facility is one of the largest lamb processing facilities in the region, and serves sheep ranchers from 15 states, including Utah, Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming, and California,” the letter said. “This facility competes head-to-head with JBS, which imports all of its lamb products.”

The letter stated the acquisition eliminated a major domestic competitor “…and could replace significant quantities of the American-raised lamb with imported products.”

Bruett said JBS USA intends to further invest in the Greeley facility and reopen as a value-added beef operation that will preserve jobs.

“This action does not eliminate hundreds of jobs but preserves existing jobs while creating the opportunity for new jobs in our hometown of Greeley,” he said. “In addition, all former Mountain States Rosen employees have been given the opportunity to apply for jobs with JBS USA.

“The acquisition presents an exciting opportunity to provide value-added and premium, retail ready beef products to consumers in Colorado and across the United States.”