JBS Construction

FILE PHOTO, 2010: Construction workers prepare footings for the new "hot box" under construction on the west side of the JBS Swift plant at 555 S. Stuhr Road in Grand Island. (Independent/Barrett Stinson)

Grand Island’s largest employer is going to get bigger as JBS USA has announced a $95 million expansion project at its Grand Island beef production facility.

According to JBS USA, the project includes new, improved animal handling facilities; a state-of-the-art, temperature-controlled harvest floor; and a facility reconfiguration designed to improve team member experience, food safety and product quality.

Tim Schellpeper, JBS USA fed beef president, said the expansion is an “important strategic investment to secure Grand Island as an unquestioned leader in food quality, animal care and beef innovation for years to come.”

“Around the world, from North and South America to Asia and Africa, consumers crave the superior taste and quality of American beef,” Schellpeper said. “Partnering with leading Nebraska and other area beef producers, we are proud to invest in a vibrant future for U.S. beef.”

According to JBS USA, the 107,000-square-foot expansion and facility enhancements will better position the company to “sustainably meet evolving customer and consumer expectations for high-quality U.S. beef products.”

The expansion project, which has already started, is expected to be completed in early 2021. Operations at Grand Island will continue uninterrupted throughout project execution.

Last year, the USDA reported that Nebraska was the nation’s leading cattle slaughter state at more than 7.45 million head. The JBS beef slaughter plant in Grand Island is one of the state’s leading cattle processors.

The facility has the capacity to process more than 1.4 million cattle a year.

Centrally located in one of the nation’s top beef-producing states, the company said that its Grand Island facility partners with more than 670 local producers to export U.S. beef to more than 30 countries, including Canada, Chile, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Mexico and Singapore, under signature brands such as 1855 Black Angus, Swift and Swift Black Angus.

In 2018, Nebraska led the nation in beef exports, with a total export value of $1.44 billion. Nebraska’s beef exports increased by 14 percent from 2017 to 2018. Total beef exports have exceeded $1 billion each year since 2014. In 2018, Nebraska’s top beef export markets were:

— Japan — $412.1 million

— South Korea — $309.3 million

— Hong Kong — $139.5 million

— Mexico — $138 million

— European Union — $124.3 million

The expansion project will allow the company to capitalize on increased international demand forecasts for high-quality U.S. beef and value-added beef products, said Zack Ireland, Grand Island plant manager.

“JBS Grand Island has been a standard-bearer for American beef for over half a century,” Ireland said. “Our team sends the best U.S. beef products the country has to offer to customers both domestically and globally.”

He said the expansion will “strengthen our longstanding commitment to local farmers and ranchers, our team members, key customers and the community of Grand Island, whose support has been critical to our ongoing success.”

Originally built in 1965 by Swift & Co., the Grand Island beef facility, as a part of the JBS USA family, produces nearly 1 billion pounds of quality beef and beef products each year.

It is a two-shift beef-processing facility that employs more than 3,500 people. The plant was purchased by Monfort in 1979 and was acquired by JBS in 2007.

JBS USA’s Grand Island plant expansion announcement comes during Beef Month. While the JBS plant and the secondary industries it supports, such as the trucking industry, are a leading economic driver of the community, it also is a huge contributor to the state’s economy.

The recently released 2017 Census of Agriculture said that the total value of agricultural products sold in 2017 was $22 billion. Of the total value of production, 58 percent originated from livestock, with 42 percent from crops.

The USDA reported that Nebraska’s cattle and calf inventory as of Jan. 1 was 6.8 million head. Nebraska’s population is 1.9 million people.

JBS USA is a leading global provider of diversified, high-quality food products. It is a leading processor of beef, pork and prepared foods in the U.S.; a leading processor of beef and prepared foods in Canada; and a leading processor of beef, lamb, pork and prepared foods in Australia.

The company is also a majority shareholder of Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., with operations in the U.S. and Mexico, and the owner of Moy Park, a leading poultry and prepared foods company in the U.K. and Europe.

As a global food company, it processes, prepares, packages and delivers fresh, further-processed and value-added premium meat and poultry products for sale to customers in approximately 100 countries on six continents.