A North Carolina-based, multi-generational family-owned company revealed itself Monday as the owners of what will be 240 million dollar pork processing facility in Mason City.
Prestage Farms says pending the finalization of state approvals, they plan to build a state-of-the-art, 650,000 square foot facility on land in the southern part of the community.
The first phase of the project will employ around 1,000 people, with the second phase employing a total of 2,000 workers. Ron Prestage, says Mason City is the type of community they were looking for to expand their operation.
“We think today, there’s a great opportunity for a family business in the right place, and we think the right place is in Mason City, to take the next logical step in vertical integration by trying to capture the value by entering the processing business, and we also think that will be hugely important and beneficial to independent producers in northern Iowa. That’s why we’re here,” Prestage says.
He says they want to bring the family mentality to the Iowa pork producing industry, helping out the independent pork producers. Prestage, who is a veterinarian, says the independent producer relies on getting the best price for his pork — and his company’s plant might end up being the best value to those producers.
He says they only have enough of their own hogs to fill about 10,000 head per shift or 50,000 head per week, with the rest of the hogs they’ll purchase from independent pork producers in Iowa.
“And we think that’s going to be good for the pork industry overall and an opportunity for us to not only contribute to the better economic conditions for all pork producers — but maybe get that thing back in balance a little bit,” he explains. Prestage says it will be one of the biggest projects in his company’s history. The only other processing plant they own is a turkey plant in North Carolina.
“This will be our first stab at a modern pork plant. We actually had a real small plant in North Carolina, I think when I was in high school, very very small,” Prestage says. “We have about 700,000 finishing spaces in Iowa today. That will provide about half of the market hogs necessary for the first shift.” Prestage says they’ll process the whole hog for multiple products.
He says it’s true that there’s not anything on a pig that’s not used. “It gets recycled into something, made back into some type of feed ingredients or anything else,” Prestage says, “I didn’t make this up, somebody said the only thing they don’t use is the squeal. That’s where you get the opportunity to try to capture as much of the value of that live animal when it comes in.”
Governor Terry Branstad says the plant represents a great opportunity for the state’s pork producers to capture a greater share of the food dollar. He says rather than shipping live hogs out of state for processing, this plant will allow Prestage Farms to add value to hogs here in Iowa. Groundbreaking on the plant is expected to take place later this year, with the plant being operational in 2018.
(Story and photo by Bob Fisher, KRIB, Mason City)