COLUMBIA, MO. — Stellar, a construction, engineering and mechanical firm, recently provided details on the new $200-million processing plant in Missouri and operated by Swift Prepared Foods, a subsidiary of JBS USA, and its Principe Italia brand.

Stellar said the new facility created more than 100 jobs in Columbia, Mo., where it is producing high-quality dry-cured meats, including salami, pepperoni, prosciutto, pancetta and coppa. The plant implemented automation technology and a unique curing process. 

“With our new plant in Columbia, we’re not just expanding our production capacity — we’re also creating a home base for our team,” said Tom Lopez, president of Swift Prepared Foods. “This is a remarkable facility that represents a major milestone for our company. We look forward to growing the Principe Italia brand in the US and sharing our products with even more customers across the country.”

Swift announced plans to build the 315,000-square-foot facility in Columbia in August 2020. Stellar received the contract shortly afterward for the processing plant’s architectural design, construction, process engineering, utilities, refrigeration and thermal services. 

During the early months, crews performed site planning on the 80-acre property, preparing it for construction. 

Stellar noted that as construction started, inclement weather, a global pandemic and supply shortages presented challenges. However, with coordination and creative problem-solving, Stellar and Swift completed the project on time and within budget. 

“Stellar’s team brings wide-ranging experience across a variety of industries to the table, allowing us to present outside-the-box solutions to different circumstances. We pride ourselves in our ability to overcome obstacles in the best ways possible,” said Jim Oko, director of process development at Stellar. “This project was a full team effort, and we coordinated quickly to ensure Swift’s schedule was not held up by project challenges.”

The new 315,000-square-foot facility is divided into three areas running east to west throughout the building.

The first part is for receiving raw ingredients, inspection and manufacturing. Next, products move to fermenting and drying areas that are separated into designated spaces for prosciutto and salami. Finally, there is a ready-to-eat (RTE) product area that includes product peeling and packing. 

“What you’ll see in many traditional plants is that their process lines are disconnected, whereas we designed this facility and its processes to be interconnected and flow seamlessly,” Oko said. “We worked to make sure products move throughout the plant efficiently from manufacturing to packaging using strategic equipment layout and technology, including AGVs, gantry robots and conveyor belts. To support the facility’s inventory control, we also incorporated a refrigerated ‘work in progress’ step between peeling, slicing and packaging.” 

The firm also designed and constructed two employee welfare areas on either side of the plant to separate “raw” side personnel from RTE personnel. For the west side of the building that features RTE products, visitors can find Swift’s main office, which features a small pilot testing plant for new products and an Italian café-inspired show kitchen for customers.

Swift and Stellar held the groundbreaking event for the facility in early April. This is the seventh Swift processing facility in the United States. 

“Congratulations to the Swift team on a beautiful new plant. We hope it will enable your company to achieve great growth and success as a leading supplier of premier Italian meat products,” said Mike Davis, senior vice president of Stellar’s Food & Beverage Group.

Swift opened a ready-to-eat bacon facility in Moberly, Mo., in 2021.