Beef plant near Calgary to open later this year

EDMONTON — Harmony Beef could be processing cattle by mid-November, but the new owner says the pace of operations will be slow and steady.

The plant is capable of handling 800 cattle per day, but once it opens later this year it will start at about 125 head, said Rich Vesta, the principle owner of the plant north of Calgary.

Plans were originally set to open this summer, but that may have been overly optimistic, Vesta said today at the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency annual conference in Edmonton.

Vesta purchased the former Rancher’s Beef last November, and renovations on the slaughter and fabrication side are continuing at a cost of $16 to 18 million over the purchase price.

“It was built to standards and technology that no other plant in North America has to this day, particularly on the slaughter side,” he said.

A typical North American plant handles about 250 head per hour, but the technology at this plant is slower, where 80 to 90 animals are processed. The cattle will move through the system at six feet per minute compared to other large plants that move them through at five times that speed.

The plant is also implementing a new water management system.

“One of the biggest hurdles this plant had to overcome was water,” he said.

Under earlier operations, it needed as much as 500,000 gallons per day, but under an imported European system, water is recycled so usage drops to about 20,000 gallons per day.

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