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In this video, Butterball’s President and CEO Kerry Doughty discusses investment in the company plants and innovation among processing techniques and team members.

Andy Hanacek: Here we are for this cover story, I'm going out to the Rayford plant that you guys acquired and I'm doing that because it's a good picture of innovation and investment that you guys are making into the industry and into your own processing plants. But it's not the only plant that you guys have made investments and pushed the envelope forward. Can you tell me a little bit about some of the other plants that Butterball has really made an investment to take the next step at those facilities? What are some of the projects you've been working on that have come to fruition in the last year or so, or maybe are coming online now that you can talk about?

Kerry Doughty: Sure, love to, Andy. Well, you know, innovation is the key to moving forward. As you're well aware, we're in a very capital-intensive business. Rayford's going to be a great day for you tomorrow. A lot of new, neat, exciting things there. We're excited to have you down there. But across the other facilities, and we have six other processing facilities, there's a lot of innovation being developed in those facilities over the last three years.

Montgomery, Illinois, we purchased that plant three years ago. Primarily is was a pork processing plant. We're introducing some turkey products in there, and one of the newest lines that we're, in fact, setting up right now is a turkey-bacon line. And we'll be doing turkey-bacon there, fully cooked turkey-bacon by the way. That probably incorporates about 100 additional associates in a $25 million, $30 million investment. At the end of the day, we'll be able to do 30, 35 million pounds of fully cooked, sliced turkey-bacon out of that facility.

Mt. Olive, and I know you've been to Mt. Olive, it's the world's largest turkey processing facility, about 700,000 square feet. Employs about 2,500 associates, team members as we like to call them here at Butterball. They recently introduced and installed a controlled atmosphere stun system, very high tech, probably one of the largest ones in the world to process our tom turkeys there, about 60,000 a day, 15 pound birds. So it's a huge system. A lot of benefit to our, not only our associates from a labor and a safety standpoint, but to the birds in terms of animal care and well-being.

Our Carthage, Missouri, plant recently installed its second burger line, I know we talked about burgers the last time you were here. We had installed the first burger line. We sold out two shifts on the first burger line. We put the second burger line in last year, very successful implementation, have sold the second shift out and, in fact, are in the process of putting our third burger line in at Carthage.

So, you know, innovation is that lifeblood of moving forward, but it's not just in the processing area, it's with our team members. How are we going to deal with them? It's on the live side of the business. One of the exciting things that we've got going on in the live side are automatic loaders. And the same effect that we get from the controlled atmosphere stun system in Mt. Olive in that it's better for safety of our team members, and it's better for the animal care and well-being of our animals. So, again, innovation, it's expensive, but you've got to stay competitive, not only with competition but to what your consumers are wanting you to do.

Hanacek: So, the social responsibility, or the responsibility piece, kind of plays into the Mt. Olive improvement and the automated loaders.

Doughty: Absolutely.

Hanacek: Did those come on board as investment possibilities because of that program or were they already in the works and then that's just part of the message?

Doughty: I'd say a mix of both. We're always looking for opportunities to improve efficiency, improve the safety and welfare of our team members and the animal care and well-being of the animals that we work with. So those things all roll up into one. One of the things that we like to do is get out into the environment and see what other people are doing. Best practices if you will. You don't have to invent it to be the one that's successful with it and I think it's been a good opportunity and a good learning experience for us.

Be sure to check out our other Q&A interviews with Butterball executives.