Alma Farm Fresh Meats has changed its immediate plan from building a new facility to renovating its current one to allow for in-house slaughtering, processing and marketing.
Investors wanting to join the producer-owned cooperative must act by April 1, when the co-op will close membership and start accessing the money collected.
"We have enough money in the bank to close right now," said Bill Stouffer, board treasurer for the co-op, adding that if all 200 shares are purchased, Alma Farm Fresh Meats will start out with working capital. "I don't think it will be opened up to the public again," he said.
Neal Bredehoeft, board chairman for Alma Meats, said the renovated locker in Alma should allow for 50 to 75 cattle or 200 hogs to be slaughtered per day. The new building would have accommodated 120 cattle or 240 hogs, he said.
Revamping the current building will also cost significantly less. Stouffer said a new facility would cost around $12.5 million. Completely gutting and redesigning the existing locker and retail store should cost a little over $1 million.
The smaller undertaking will also speed up when the first livestock will be processed by Alma Farm Fresh Meats, with the first butchering set for late this year.
Bredehoeft said the board decided to move on the renovation project versus building a new structure in mid-February and is working with an engineer to finalize the estimated cost of the project.
"I think part of it was that our markets are out there," Bredehoeft said. "We basically needed to get on with it because (distributors) are ready for our product."
Bredehoeft also mentioned the 200 shares, at $15,000 each, will allow for producers to get half of their investment back in tax credits. The cooperative had originally offered 500 shares to pork and beef producers.
After breaking escrow April 1, the Alma Meats retail market will be moved to a temporary location and the 35-by-90 foot grocery store will be converted by July 1 to an area for processing meat products, Stouffer said. The separate building will ensure raw meats will not be mixed with cooked meats. Stouffer said, as a food-safety issue, even the airflow should be separate for raw and cooked meats.
After the cooking facility is finished, the locker will be renovated to allow for slaughtering of up to 200 animals a day and another area will be set up for cutting fresh meat and putting it in coolers or freezers. While the locker is refurbished, Alma Meats will not be able to slaughter animals at the location until November, when construction should be complete. But the cooked products will still be available.
"There'll be a pause in slaughtering, there won't be a pause in fabrication," Stouffer said.
Hogs and cattle will start being processed in the new building by Dec. 1, Stouffer said. He said the co-op aims to turn a profit by the end of its first year and may expand into a new facility after two years.
"Our market is expanding so far we just need to get things started," Stouffer said. "I look at this as an intermediate step. The eventual goal is to build a new facility."
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