By CAROL RYAN DUMAS
Boise-based Agri Beef Co. has expanded its Toppenish, Wash., beef processing facility to include a grind operation.
While the company has sold ground beef in the past, its ground beef products were produced through arrangements with co-packers, said Jeff VanLith, Agri Beef's products development manager.
Agri Beef will now grind its own retail ground beef rolls (also known as ground beef chubs), bulk ground beef rolls and bulk ground beef patties. The company will maintain its relationship with co-packers for selected items but eventually will bring the majority of ground beef production in-house.
The company began ground beef production about two weeks ago, said Jay Theiler, Agri Beef's executive director of marketing.
The expansion required significant investment, including a redesign of a portion of the Toppenish plant, a two-step metal detection process and a spiral freezer, Van Lith said.
The in-house operation will meet customers' requests and save on transportation costs to and from co-packers' plants, Theiler said.
Over the years, Agri Beef has built up its ground beef business through co-packers, but the company has had consistent customer requests to add ground beef to its branded products.
"We are really excited about this business and opportunity to meet those customers' requests," Theiler said.
The company will now offer ground beef in chubs and patties to retail and foodservice under its Snake River Farms, St. Helens and Double R Ranch brands. The beef will be packaged in different weights, lean content and patty varieties in fine and coarse textures.
"Agri Beef's investment in the new grind operation allows us to offer complete production for our brands and fulfill our commitment to efficient supply chain management," Theiler said.
The Northwest location of the combined facility allows for ease of frequent deliveries and consistent supply. It will also ensure shorter lead times and a fresher product with faster turnaround for increased shelf life, he said.
In addition to the Toppenish plant, the company owns feedlots in American Falls and Parma, Idaho and in Moses Lake, Wash. It also owns Double R Ranch in Loomis, Wash., and PerforMix Nutrition Systems in Nampa, Idaho.