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Drew Jorgensen of Skyline Sheep Co. directs sheep into a trailer to be hauled out to the western desert. The Jorgensens and other Utah lamb growers have been dealing with a crisis over where to process their lambs after Brazilian meat packing giant bought up the only viable processing plant, but a newly purchased operation in Texas looks like a solution for the western lamb industry.

 

Recommissioning of Texas processing plant

may provide reprieve to sheep industry

 

By Robert Stevens

Managing editor

9-10-2020

 

SAN ANGELO, TEXAS—A Colorado ranch family is recommissioning a defunct Texas lamb processing plant to help bail out the western lamb industry.

Jay and Jo Hasbrouck and family of Ault, Colorado, and Double J Meat Packing/Double J Lamb Feeders have officially taken over the processing plant that was once Ranchers Lamb of Texas in San Angelo, Texas.

The new plant will be redubbed Double J Lamb, Inc. of Texas. The plant has been out of commission for 15 years, so it will require some renovation to be reopened.

“It hasn’t been used in quite a few years, so there’s a lot of work to do,” said Jeff Hasbrouck, son of Jay Hasbrouck and manager of Double J Lamb Feeders.

The new plant will serve ranchers from more than a dozen western states who lost their only other place to have their lambs slaughtered, processed and packed after Brazilian meat packing Giant JBS took over the bankrupt Mountain States Rosen plant in Greeley, Colorado with the intent to convert it entirely to a beef only facility.

“We felt like we had to do something for our customers and for the industry, so we reached out and toured the plant in San Angelo and felt like this was a good fit for us,” Hasbrouck said. “It’s a nice facility, but it just needs a little bit of work.”

The San Angelo plant was designed to process 1,800 head per day and, according to Jay Hasbrouck, will initially employ a workforce of approximately 80-100 people. The Hasbroucks’ goal is to process about 200,000 head of lamb a year at the facility. The Greeley, Colorado plant was processing roughly 350,000 head per year before JBS took it over in a bankruptcy auction.

The American Sheep Industry Assn. (ASI) released a statement saying the new plant will be a “needed shot in the arm” for the industry, which has been scrambling to figure out where they will process their lambs with the Greeley, Colorado plant switching to all beef. Another plant in Brush, Colorado is being opened, but it will not have the ability to “fabricate” or process and pack into distributable portions for immediate sale, making it an unrealistic solution for most western lamb growers.

“This is a bold, innovative step that the Hasbrouck family is taking in looking for a new way to support the American sheep industry,” said ASI executive director Peter Orwick. “I think the entire industry will applaud their efforts and wish them the best of luck in this new endeavor.”

Officials in San Angelo welcome the plant’s reopening as well, for its benefit to the local economy.

“The San Angelo Chamber of Commerce welcomes the Double J Meat Packing company to our community,” said Walter Koenig, President and CEO of the San Angelo Chamber of Commerce. “The reestablishment of this processing plant will drive growth in this critical sector and will provide lasting benefits to our local economy for decades to come.”

Although reopening the plant will take some effort, the Hasbroucks say they are up to the challenge.

“We hope to have the plant up and running in two months,” said Hasbrouck, who has been in San Angelo overseeing the purchase of the lamb plant. “We’ll have to ramp up, so we’ll probably just be harvesting lambs at first, but will start fabricating soon after that. We knew we didn’t have a lot of time to get this done, so we couldn’t sit back and wait for it to happen.”

The Hasbroucks say they will also begin processing some other small livestock at some point.