I don’t know how bad things had gotten at the former Lakeside Packers plant at Brooks before the big meat recall of 2012, but on a recent media tour of the facility it appears the new owners and managers of JBS Canada are bent on running the cleanest, and most efficient operation possible.
A few media types, along with some feedlot owners, government folks and other guests had about a 45 minute tour of the Brooks, Alta. plant, marking its six months of operation under JBS ownership.
Despite the fact they have 1,200 workers per shift, handling and processing about four full carcasses per minute (that’s 3,800 head per day over two shifts) all operations looked clean. Besides being chaotic, it all appeared to run smoothly. We weren’t shown the kill floor, but we did see part of the processing line, and the packaging of some of the 30,000 one-ton boxes of meat they ship out of the facility every day.
Willie Van Solkema, president of JBS Canada says the biggest change the plant implemented since JBS took over from XL Foods is to apply the JBS production protocols they use at all 10 of their North American packing plants.
It didn’t require a major upgrade, but obviously a fine tuning of processes and procedures to ensure all precautions are taken to prevent any bacteria from surviving and of course any contaminated meat from leaving the plant. I understand in all meat plants a certain amount of the meat product is rejected for whatever reason. JBS said the amount of discarded or rejected product is one-quarter of what it was under previous owners.
Regardless of how many cleaning supplies are used, it is still a fragile environment. As Van Solkema and Bill Rupp, president of JBS USA pointed out one key element lies outside the plant in reducing levels of E.coli bacteria carried in the gut of the animal as well as on the hide at the feedlot level. The cleaner the animal — inside and out — the less risk of harmful bacteria entering the plant in the first place. As old as the industry is, and despite the fact millions of head are finished and processed every year in North America they say more research and better procedures are needed in all aspects of the beef production and processing systems.
Rupp says JBS is committed to the Canadian beef industry for the long haul. One of the biggest challenges of running an efficient packing plant is having an adequate supply of beef. And right now they don’t at most of their North American operations. He’s hoping cow/calf guys can find the economics to produce more beef.
Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary. Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at [email protected]