Earlier this year, Meat + Poultry Magazine reported that meat processors and food distributors were investing from under $1 million to almost $400 million into renovating existing operations or building new facilities. For meat and poultry processing more than 20 new greenfield plants were completed, under construction or announced in 2019 and early 2020 in North America. Those decisions were driven by consumer demands, growth, prosperity, and politics. Today, those decisions are being driven by COVID-19. Yet, processors and distributors are cautiously optimistic their operations will once again reach full operating capacity, and are prepping their facilities with heightened safety measures.

The Aurora Packing Company in North Aurora, IL, is one of these companies. The meat processor is set to begin construction in April on a new 254,000 sq. ft. angus beef harvesting/processing plant that will handle 1,000 head per day.

According to Yuki Kurata, Corporate Management Coordinator of Aurora, the decision to build a greenfield site was weighed against the existing facility, which had deteriorating infrastructure and mechanical systems. During a time when folks may feel insecure about job stability, Kurata says the new facility will offer additional jobs and provide a tax base to the community.

With COVID-19 in mind throughout the design process, Kurata says state-of-the-art mechanical systems and hygienic air units will keep interior and exterior air quality to the safest standards in the industry. Additionally, employee separation was seriously considered, resulting in sanitation stations, socially-distanced welfare areas with staggered shift recommendations, and responsibly spaced workstations for all employees. “We are incorporating every available design feature for food and employee safety,” he said.

Other safety-minded features will include efficient process equipment for employees’ long-term health, and reduced repetitive motion and heavy lifting. Administrative offices, Kosher processing, shipping, receiving, freezer and cooler areas, parking, and a wastewater treatment facility round out the new design.

Meat Processing Kill Plant

Greenfiled Beef Harvest and Processing Plant