JBS USA sells its Greeley lamb plant to Wyoming lamb cooperative | TheFencePost.com

JBS USA sells its Greeley lamb plant to Wyoming lamb cooperative

Sharon Dunn

JBS USA has reached yet another purchase agreement — but this time it's to sell one of its assets.

After years of buying other meat production assets throughout the country, JBS USA officials plan to sell off a small niche operation in Greeley to a Wyoming-based lamb cooperative.

Officials from the Mountain States Lamb Cooperative, based in Douglas, Wyo., plan to complete the deal to buy the Greeley Lamb Plant by the end of the year. A purchase price was not released.

Cameron Bruett, spokesman for JBS, said the sale was an easy decision for JBS higher-ups.

"The U.S. lamb business was truly a niche category for JBS USA that presented limited opportunities for growth," Bruett wrote in an email response to questions. "We were only involved in the slaughter side of the business and did not fabricate or further process lamb.

"We think it's a good transaction for both parties and Mountain States will have the opportunity to adopt a fully integrated model."

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The Greeley Lamb Plant processes all the lambs for Mountain States, made up of 140 producers in 15 states. The cooperative includes Mountain States Rosen meat marketing company, with fabrication, distribution and marketing assets in Greeley, and Bronx, N.Y., according to a news release. The deal means the cooperative will now control all stages of the production of their lamb: raising, harvesting, processing, packaging, marketing and distribution.

The deal is for the property, plus the buildings, as well as all the assets at the plant. The cooperative will share the JBS plant's wastewater and steam systems moving forward.

Frank Moore, chairman of the cooperative, said the cooperative had been leasing space from the Greeley Lamb Plant to run its fabrication, or further processing of its lamb carcasses, since 2001. There were two sides to the plant, located just east of the JBS meatpacking plant in northeast Greeley. JBS slaughtered lamb on one side, and the cooperative leased space to further process it.

"We have a purchase agreement, and we have to get some bank financing and some fundraising done to close the deal. We're very close," Moore said.

"We're excited about the opportunity," he said, "and that they agreed to sell something."

The plant employs roughly 250 people in Greeley. Moore said that number wouldn't change. In fact, he said, once the deal is done, they would like the plant to grow.

The idea of buying the plant was to gain a competitive advantage in the market. The Greeley Lamb Plant processes roughly 24 percent of the nation's lamb supply.

Moore said the plan is for a seamless transition at the plant, but it also could be a springboard for improvements.

"It'll just give us more of a long-term handle on the future of the cooperative," Moore said. "We've got some things we want to do to improve products we deliver to the consumer." ❖

About Mountain States Lamb Cooperative

Mountain States Lamb Cooperative began as a grassroots effort in late 1990s by a handful of producers who wanted to create more margin for their sheep operations and stop the precipitous decline of the American Sheep Industry. The co-op began marketing lambs in 2003 and recently surpassed 3 million lambs marketed.

Source: Mountain States Lamb Cooperative