Meat+Poultry - January 2021 - 41

But driving growth has not been without
challenges - and not all of those challenges
were due to the coronavirus (COVID-19)
pandemic.
" We're operating a beef company and trying
to grow a beef company in a chicken part of
the world, " Rogers said. " Finding producer
partners that will want to work with us on the
live side has been a challenge, but that's not a
surprise. I think we knew we would find that
because people aren't feeding cattle in Georgia;
people aren't feeding cattle in the Southeast for
the most part.
" But on the other hand, there's a lot of
good cattle producers in the Southeast, " he
added. " There's a lot of good feeder calves that
are born in the Southeast, but then they get
finished and fed in the Midwest. So, there's a
base of live cattle knowledge. We're trying to
build that network of partners - guys that want
to finish cattle in the Southeast. "

MEASURED GROWTH
Over a period of 16 years, FPL has grown to
four facilities in Georgia and South Carolina
from two plants in Augusta. FPL currently
operates a ground beef facility in Thomasville,
Ga.; Châtel Farms cattle feeding operation in
Reidsville, Ga.; and Châtel Ankony purebred
Black Angus production in Midville, Ga. FPL
also manages a steak cutting operation in
Thomasville that is owned by Walmart Inc.
The most-recent chapter of the FPL Food
growth story is a rebuild of the Augusta harvest
and fabrication facility. Company leadership
expects the finished multi-phase project to
yield needed capacity to meet growing demand
for its vertically integrated beef brands -
Châtel Farms, True To Nature and Southern
River Farms Natural Beef. The initial phase of
the expansion is scheduled for completion in
September 2021. FPL expects to process up to
2,500 Black Angus and Akaushi fed cattle per
week at the renovated plant.
Additional phases of the expansion will
be completed within the next three years,
and weekly throughput will increase to more
than 5,000 head. FPL said these numbers will
supplement the company's current cow and
bull processing and elevate total production to
more than 10,000 head per week.
" We're building out a completely vertically
integrated supply and finished goods

operation, " Rogers said. " Starting with the
genetics, we have a herd of Black Angus
cattle - cows and bulls, and Ankony genetics.
So, starting with the genetics all the way
through the finished goods, we have a furtherprocessing facility in Thomasville, Ga., that
cuts steaks and does ground beef. So, we can
take a calf that is based off our own genetics,
raise that animal, finish that animal, process/
harvest the animal at our harvesting plant; send
the beef to our Thomasville facility and make
a steak out of it and sell that steak to a retailer
or a foodservice operator, and we control
everything about it. "
In the planning stages, Rogers and
the FPL team reassessed the parts of the
processing facility that comprised operations
and identified that the hot-box, the carcass
cooler, posed a hurdle to growth. Rogers
said expansion of the hot box is in the plan
so the company can implement a two-shift
processing operation.
The fabrication floor needs to be expanded
and modified as well to allow processing of
more fed cattle, he added. FPL will be adding
technology that is new to the company but
familiar to the industry. The company has not
shied away from advances in technology or best
practices - FPL was the first slaughtering facility
in the United States to implement remote
video auditing at its plant in Augusta, to ensure
animal-welfare standards were being met.
The company also adopted DNA traceability
technology as a food safety measure.
Before the pandemic, a team from FPL
traveled abroad to visit meat processors in
Europe, New Zealand and other countries " ...
to look at what they're doing and try to get
best practices from other operations in other
countries, " Rogers said.

" We're
operating a
beef company
and trying to
grow a beef
company in a
chicken part
of the world. "
- JIM ROGERS

COVID-19 CONSIDERATIONS
The fact that FPL is gearing up for growth
during a global pandemic hasn't stifled the
company's ability to turn previous lessons
learned into actionable strategies.
" We are taking what we learned in the last
six months and we'll be incorporating that
into any new facility, any new designs that
we have, " Rogers said. " The biggest is social
distancing - not only in the production area
but in all of the employee welfare areas -
anywhere people gather.
www.meatpoultry.com | 01.21 | MEAT+ POULTRY

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Meat+Poultry - January 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Meat+Poultry - January 2021

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