'Know your farmer, know your beef' with Upper Iowa Beef
LIME SPRINGS, Iowa — Upper Iowa Beef will mark one month of operation this week and things are going better than expected, said Paul Savage, sales and marketing manager.
LIME SPRINGS, Iowa — Upper Iowa Beef has been open for a month, and things are going better than expected, said Paul Savage, sales and marketing manager.
"We started operating Feb. 23, and we're still ramping up," Savage said.
The plant continues to add employees and expects to have 70 workers at full capacity. The plant currently has about 40 workers. Savage said it will take another nine to 10 weeks until the plant is up to speed.
Upper Iowa Beef has slaughtered cattle from Howard and Mitchell counties. Distributors from Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania have placed orders.
The red and white facility on the southwest edge of Lime Springs is just off Highway 63. It is a 25,175-square-foot plant that will, at full capacity, slaughter 112 animals per day.
The plant is designed to accept local cattle and produce meat to satisfy local demand. The holding area is climate controlled with heated floors and the harvest area is state of the art. The plant uses sterilization equipment that consumes two-thirds less water per animal than the industry average.
Upper Iowa Beef has two branded beef programs — Upper Iowa Angus Beef and Iowa Angus Beef. Upper Iowa Angus Beef consists of Choice grade, and Iowa Angus Beef, Prime and upper two-thirds Choice grade.
"Both have been greatly accepted in the marketplace," Savage said. "Customers are really wanting the product."
Producers who want to sell cattle to Upper Iowa Beef follow special feed protocols. Cattle must be fed a minimum of 120 days on corn. No beta agonists are allowed, and all producers must be Beef Quality Assurance certified.
Cattle buyer Bob Noble, of Riceville, who also sells cattle to the plant, visits farmers who sell to the plant and checks that protocols are followed.
"We're looking for more cattle, and we're getting calls every day from people who want to sell us their cattle," Savage said. "We want high grading cattle. Cattle need to grade Choice and higher, and they need to be Angus."
The company formed partnerships with several food service distributors throughout the Midwest, one being Martin Brothers, of Cedar Falls.
"We don't just sell boxed beef like everyone else," Savage said. "We are partners with our customers."
The company's motto is "know your farmer, know your beef."
The plant offers Quick Response technology, which allows customers to scan the QR Code on meat packages with their smart phones and learn where their beef came from, how it was raised and information about farmers who raised the cattle.
Savage demonstrated the process on several beef packages.
His smart phone reads the QR Code, and Noble Farms in Mitchell County pops up on the screen. It says the average weight of the 159 head of cattle is 1,600 pounds. They were on corn for 170 days and came off grass in August at 900 to 1,000 pounds. It says the cattle were fed and raised to the Upper Iowa Beef feeding and humane animal handling protocols. It shares that Noble Family Farm has been in operation since 1896.
Savage has photos of the cattle in July and in February, just a few days before harvest.
When the business was first announced in 2012, it was called LimeSprings Beef. The name was changed to Upper Iowa Beef because it better reflects the region were the cattle come from and where the beef is sold, Savage said.
Savage worked with Cassie Wyant, who is from Cresco, and plant employee Tami Runde, of Riceville, to develop the company logo of a steer inside the boundaries of Iowa.
Producers interested in selling cattle to the plant can contact Savage, and he will get them in touch with Noble. He can be reached at 563-566-2202.
Groundbreaking for the plant took place in August 2013.
Lime Springs received a $400,000 Revitalize Iowa's Sound Economy grant to improve and and extend the roadway leading to the plant. Northeast Iowa Community College, through its High Quality Jobs Program, has provided more than $300,000 for job training to prepare local workers for up to 50 jobs provided by the plant. The Lime Springs City Council also offered Tax Increment Financing to enable the plant to create its own wastewater treatment system, separate from the city's water and sewer.
Crestwood FFA students invested $20,000 to purchase the last 20 shares sold. In order for the students to get involved, a state law was changed to allow school groups to create an entrepreneurial account to invest in private enterprise. Area beef producers also have invested.
To learn more about Upper Iowa Beef, go to upperiowabeef.com.