West Liberty Foods wants to replace aging plant

West Liberty Foods seeks to build a new plant in West Liberty, Iowa, while donating the existing plant to the city.

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Handmade Pictures, Bigstock
Handmade Pictures, Bigstock

West Liberty Foods would like to move out of its current plant in West Liberty, Iowa, and build a more modern facility in the community.

According to a report from the Muscatine Journal, the company would like to donate the current facility, which sits on 23 acres, to the city, in exchange for public financing for a new facility. The company is looking at several 25-acre lots in and near West Liberty, where the company would like to build a new 200,000 square foot facility.

The anticipated cost for a new plant would be about $150 million, with about a third of that expense involving equipment.

West Liberty Foods officials discussed the matter with city officials, and the West Liberty City Council on May 3 gave approval for the company to seek a $25 million meat/poultry expansion grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help offset the costs.

Once grant money is secured, the company will look into other ways to help finance the new facility.

Brian Melhus, general counsel for West Liberty Foods, told the city council the company is working toward carbon-neutral status, and a new plant would help with those ambitions. He also said a new facility would better allow the company to expand, because the age of the plant, which has been there since 1943, “makes continue growth in that location impractical.”

Melhus added that there would be an increase in jobs at the new plant, although some of the more difficult duties to perform will be replaced by automation.

West Liberty Foods formed in 1997 when 47 turkey growers formed the Iowa Turkey Growers Cooperative and purchased a former Louis Rich facility in West Liberty. The company specializes in slicing and co-packing cooked red meat and poultry products. According to the WATTPoultry.com Top Companies Database, West Liberty Foods slaughtered 199.8 million pounds of live turkeys during the past year, and it ranks as the 11th largest turkey producer in the United States.

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