The Iowa Pork Producers Association Board of Directors got a first-hand look at the new $300 million Seaboard Triumph Foods pork processing plant in Sioux City on Aug. 23, just before the plant’s official opening.
Seaboard Triumph officials hosted a tour of the 925,000 square-foot plant that is set to begin production on Sept. 5. The facility will open with a single shift and a few hundred production employees, but will quickly increase to around 1,100 employees with the capacity to process about 10,500 hogs a day from plant owners and independent producers.
“It appears that they are using both new technologies and best practices to create an environment that is good for both the pigs as well as the people working there,” said Mike Paustian, IPPA vice president of operations and southeast region director from Walcott. “Additionally, the plant is setup to be very energy-efficient and they will have the ability to process and sort pork in order to provide consumers with exactly the products they want.”
The plant itself incorporates robotics and other state-of-the-art technology that will require higher skilled workers. The plant also is designed to hold up to 10,000 live animals if necessary, which impressed Jamie Schmidt, former IPPA president and current interim district two director from Garner.
“Where they bring the animals in looks like it should flow well, which is always a concern for us as producers,” he said. “They have a lot of holding capacity.”
Production increases in recent years have exceeded packing capacity in the state, creating concerns for producers. IPPA Board members believe the new Seaboard Triumph plant, along with the Prestage Foods of Iowa plant now under construction in Wright County, will greatly ease the strain on shackle space in Iowa.
“The more harvest capacity that we have, the better because if we don’t have more, we’re going to swamp what we have and that won’t be good for us as producers,” Schmidt said.
Producers are looking forward to having more marketing options and are hopeful the increased competition will boost hog prices.
Dennis Liljedahl, district five director from Essex, was very impressed with the plant and believes the increased competition will be good for everyone.
“As an independent producer, anytime there is more competition for the live animals that aren’t contracted, it gives you more options; just the rising tide probably helps everybody, especially when we have times where live hogs numbers outstrip slaughter capacity,” Liljedahl said. “Hopefully, it will raise the overall price of hogs a little just because of the competition between packers, and the efficiency of the plant will hopefully relate back to the producer level and some of that money will find its way back to the farm.”
Seaboard Triumph processed around 100 hogs on the day of the IPPA tour to test and calibrate equipment and make sure the equipment was set to proper specifications.