By Sean Ellis
Idaho Farm Bureau Federation
JEROME – Idaho-based Agri Beef Co. announced July 31 it will build a state-of-the-art regional beef processing facility in Jerome.
The project, known as True West Beef, is a partnership between Agri Beef and livestock producers and feeders in Idaho and throughout the West, who will be equity owners in the venture.
Agri Beef currently operates a mid-sized beef processing plant in Toppenish, Wash., and the family-run business is involved in most chains of the beef supply industry.
The project was kept under tight secrecy until it was announced July 31 in a hangar at the Jerome County Airport.
Agri Beef Co. President and CEO Robert Rebholtz Jr. told participants that after the announcement, “Jerome County is going to be well known. This is going to attract some national attention, especially within our industry.”
Beef cattle is Idaho’s No. 2 agricultural commodity in terms of total farm-gate receipts and the new facility is expected to provide a significant boost to the state’s ranching industry.
The U.S. beef industry is dominated by large packing facilities that process upward of 5,000 head of cattle per day, said Jay Theiler, executive vice president of strategy and public relations for Agri Beef.
The Jerome plant will be smaller – it is initially being designed to process 500 head a day – and more flexible and unique in that livestock producers will be directly involved in equity ownership, he said.
“It represents a new model and new direction” in the beef industry, Theiler said.
Gov. Brad Little, a rancher, said the new facility will be “a big, big, addition” to Idaho’s agricultural industry. “It’s not just 500 head a day. It’s 500 head of highly, highly prized, value-added, highly marketed livestock that is going to (be sold) throughout the world.”
“This new facility from this incredible Idaho-based company is very, very welcome,” he said.
The new facility is expected to create at least 370 new jobs and company officials said they hope for the facility to be processing beef by late 2021 or early 2022.
Agri Beef officials said they received strong support from local, regional and state officials.
In a news release, Wade Small, executive vice president of business development for Agri Beef, said the company evaluated many sites for the venture and Jerome checked all the boxes when it came to access to plentiful agricultural resources, an educated workforce “and a vibrant community with a can-do spirit.”
In the news release, Idaho State Department of Agriculture Director Celia Gould, a rancher, pointed out that when forage, grain and other allied industries are factored in, the livestock sector, which includes the state’s dairy industry, accounts for about 75 percent of Idaho agriculture’s gross receipts.
“An investment made in the livestock sector ripples through Idaho’s entire agricultural industry and to communities across the state,” she stated.
Theiler said most of the nation’s beef comes from the Midwest but the True West Beef facility is designed as an alternative model in the beef processing segment where large facilities dominate the industry.
“We believe at our core that the best producers, the best products and the best climate for beef is right here in Idaho and the Northwest,” he said. The facility “represents a new model and a new direction.”
In a video shown for participants of the July 31 announcement event, company officials said True West Beef “is a new and progressive model for beef production in the United States.”