Cargill is investing $111 million to convert its ground beef plant at Columbus, Neb., to a cooked meats facility and relocate ground beef production currently taking place there. The converted plant will give the company capabilities it currently does not possess to produce specific types of cooked meat products for its customers. The conversion will begin in early December 2015, with cooked meat production scheduled to start in mid-2016. Ground beef production currently taking place at Columbus will be relocated to existing processing facilities at Butler, Wis., and Forth Worth, Texas.
“This project, especially the investment we’re making in Columbus, is significant and exciting, and it represents our long-term commitment to current and future Cargill customers, as well as to the community,” explained John Niemann, president of Wichita, Kansas-based Cargill Turkey and Cooked Meats. “When completed, our Columbus plant will give us a variety of cooked meat processing capabilities we currently don’t have, and those new capabilities will provide our customers with more options to help them grow their businesses.”
Approximately $27 million will be carved out of the total funding package for investment in the company’s ground beef plants at Butler and Fort Worth, where additional new production lines will be installed. The new lines will increase overall capacity, improve efficiency and enhance the company’s capability to service Cargill foodservice customers.
“These changes will better position us to serve a variety of Cargill customers while enhancing our ability to provide them with products and support they value,” stated Chris Roberts, president of Cargill Value Added Protein, also based in Wichita. “Our focus is on doing whatever is required to help grow our customers’ businesses by meeting consumers’ needs which, in turn, will help us grow our business. This is a win-win for our customers, Cargill and the community, and something we believe is important for us to do to maintain our competitive edge in the marketplace going forward.”
Both Niemann and Roberts point to the 150-year heritage Cargill has for nourishing people and communities as a motivational driver that contributes to the success of the company’s operations at Columbus, Butler and Fort Worth, as well as at its other protein operations in North America. “ From Cargill’s humble beginning in rural Iowa during 1865, the company has maintained a deeply seeded sense of responsibility to help feed and nourish people, and we are serious about doing so in a transparent and sustainable way that helps everyone in the value chain thrive,” said Niemann.
Of the 250 positions currently at the Columbus facility, approximately 80 will be impacted when the conversion begins in December, and the company is working with those employees to provide information about opportunities to fill open positions at other Cargill facilities in the region. The company is optimistic that each affected employee will choose to take an open position with the company at another of those locations. The impacted employees are also being offered support if relocation is required. When the Columbus cooked meats plant is fully operational in 2017, it will employ approximately the same number of people now working at the ground beef patty plant – 250.