UK firm wants to be more transparent after Horse Meat scandal

Cargill in $56m chicken processing expansion

By Jenny Eagle

- Last updated on GMT

Cargill to expand its poultry processing plant
Cargill to expand its poultry processing plant

Related tags Supply chain Meat

Cargill will roll out a £35m ($56m) phased investment plan over the next three years to upgrade its technology and improve machinery at its chicken processing plant in the UK.

The company has already introduced controlled atmosphere stunning and upgraded its bird reception facilities in Hereford. The next phase is to expand its chilling and hatchery division.

Chris Hall, business director, European Chicken business, Cargill, told FoodProductionDaily it wants to be the best poultry processing plant in Europe and is focusing on the retail sector in the UK right now by investing in its machinery.

Horse Meat scandal

Demand for chicken is strengthening and consumers want to understand the supply chain better. The Horse Meat scandal precipitated that. It’s a good time to build on our credentials​,” he said.

There is a lot of interest in how we work with our partners and going forward we want to guarantee that integrity to our customers​.”

Whilst the projects are underway, Cargill will be working with local chicken farmers to look at ways of building a sustainable and long term chicken supply chain while increasing the number of home grown chickens available to the UK market.

According to Hall, customers today want to know how meat is transferred and where their food comes from.

Phased business plan

He said the phased business plan will take up to three years to implement because the supply chain in most protein food is quite long.

In chicken it’s shorter, but there are a number of things to put in place to take it forward. We are meeting with over 90 different farmers across Hereford and the surrounding suburbs​,” he said.

We are talking with them about how they can grow more chickens for us and it takes time building that infrastructure. At the same time, we need to build our processing and production facilities. Our supply chain extends to our own feed mills and hatcheries​.

The first phase of the investment is expanding our hatchery and rebuilding the chillers. The chiller is at the heart of any processing plant as it guarantees food safety. It will take 12 months to complete the build. We are going to do it in the right way and responsibly. We produce 1.7m chickens a week at present​.”

Speaking about upgrading its plant equipment, Hall said technology is always on the move and the company constantly invests in machinery with a base capital spend for each year.

Stork Poultry Processing

“There comes a point when you have to embrace technology and take a step forward. A number of things have advanced over time such as chiller technology, Stork is the largest chicken processing equipment supplier in the world based in Holland, part of Marel​.”

He added in the future, Cargill plans to expand production to two millionbirds a week in the next two years, which will require extra houses and interaction with the farmer community that it works with.

It’s a joined up process to create a sustainable supply chain from egg to finished product on the shelf. We need about 80 extra chicken houses to meet demand​,” he said.

From a business point of view it’s an exciting time for poultry processing. There is a general optimism across the market as a whole. Chicken is a fantastic protein and from a health perspective and convenience point of view it has momentum​. “

Cargill is a supplier of primary and further processed chicken products to retail, food service and food manufacturing customers. It has production facilities in Hereford, Wolverhampton and Newent in the UK, and in France and Russia.

Related topics Markets Poultry Europe

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