The family that is launching a new beef packing plant in Alberta, likely targeting some specialty or niche markets, says they are on track to have the facility just north of Calgary processing cattle by January 1, 2015.
In a newsletter released this week, Rich Vesta who along with his son Jeremy are principals behind the Harmony Beef plant at Balzac, say they have been impressed by the warm welcome they’ve received from all sectors.
“Our family and our people have been totally overwhelmed by the warm welcome received since announcing the purchase, renovation and return to operation of the form Rancher’s Beef facility,” says Vesta. “It was considered state of the art when built but the changes we are making will take food safety, cleanliness, and environmental performance to a never-before-seen level on this continent. Everywhere we go we are told the need for this facility is paramount in everyone’s mind.”
Rich Vesta who has been involved in the U.S. meat packing industry most of his life — owning and operating meat packing plants and also working with major meat processors — announced last year that he had bought the former Rancher’s Beef plant at Balzac, which for several years had sat idle, and at the time was owned by Sunterra Beef.
Since last fall the plant has been undergoing major renovations and upgrades, aimed toward an early 2015 opening. When in operation the plant expects to employ about 125 workers and process between 700 to 800 head of cattle per day. The renovations, according to the Vesta’s, will bring the plant up to some of the highest operating standards in the world, making it possible for meat from the plant to access just about any market in the world.
90% WATER EFFICIENCY
A couple of the features of the renovated plant include a design that allows for very little water usage and a low environmental foot print, says Vesta.
Most of plants of this size would require up to 450,000 gallons of water per day, but the Harmony Beef plant is being designed to operate on only about a maximum 25,000 gallons per day, which is 90 per cent less than. Their processing system will use less water and they also recycle as much as possible.
And in using less water, the discharge will also be a fraction of other facilities as well. The company hopes to build a waste-water recycling facility on the property, which will probably be smaller than many houses in the Calgary area.
Also of interest on the fabrication side, no animals will be held at the plant over night. There will be live cattle holding pens, for daily use, and they will be cleaned daily. This all helps to reduce odors.
“The fabrication area is core to high quality and food safety,” says Vesta. “We have made major changes to fully achieve European standards as we are the largest plant in Canada certified to export to the EU. We are completely renovating existing fabrication area with industry leading processing and packaging equipment. We are also upgrading the plant refrigeration system, doubling the plants previous capabilities.”
Along with the upgraded facilities, Harmony Beef has also put together a team of leading animal scientists from across North American to serve on the plant’s food safety and advisory committee.
And along with all that the plant has been toured by municipal, provincial and federal politicians, as well as specialists from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. With apparently thumbs up from all corners.
While the plant plans to be operating by January 2015, earlier press reports show Harmony Beef has hired a cattle procurement director and expects to contracting beef by September 1, 2014.
For questions about Harmony Beef contact the plant’s main office at 587-224-2333.
Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary. Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at [email protected]