BRAWLEY — Eric Brandt, President of One World Beef, addressed the Brawley Rotary Club at the Pioneers Memorial Healthcare District auditorium Wednesday to give an update using a slide show and speaking without notes about the regulatory journey of reopening the beef processing plant.
Every Wednesday, the Brawley Rotary Club gathers for a luncheon meeting to discuss club business and hear a program presented by someone in the community.
Brandt and Armand Nicholai, chief financial officer of One World Beef, were the guest speakers at Wednesday’s meeting.
“I’m from Brawley and it means a lot to have this packing house here,” said Brandt to a packed room. “Imperial County has the opportunity to raise some of the best beef in the country. We have one of the greatest valley’s to grow alfalfa, Sudan grass, and Bermuda grass as roughage for these cattle. We have the biggest dairy shed in the United States here in California. We have more calf-fed Holsteins than any other state. We have our own calf supply. Local cattlemen, including my father, pioneered how to raise Holsteins for beef production.”
“There are 380,000 head of cattle on feed in the Imperial Valley,” explained Brandt. “The cattle feeders have to ship their cattle out of state to Texas, Arizona, Idaho, or Washington for processing and merchandising. The dream of the original founders of the beef plant was to have a place to process their own cattle and keep the jobs here in the Imperial County. The plant was built in 2000 and was one of the first of its kind and size to be built in over 20 years in the United States. The plant was built as state-of-the-art processing plant in one of the strictest regulatory states in the country.”
“When this plant shut down in 2014 as National Beef, I think we all know the devastating effects it had on the county,” said Brandt. “Thirteen hundred jobs were lost over night, not counting all of the ancillary businesses that were affected. It is said that one packing house job equates six to seven jobs on the outside.”
“Since 2004, we have been marketing Brandt Beef as a custom beef brand outside of National Beef,” said Brandt. “Brandt Beef is marketed around the world. One World Beef was started in 2013. I use the analogy of custom beef processing as to that of wine making. The attributes of Brandt Beef are different than that of other beef brands. It is very meticulous in what happens in the custom beef processing side to make great beef. I use everything I learned from visiting other processing plants around the world to create the best beef product here at One World Beef.”
“Acquiring this beef plant was the most time consuming, excruciating, and hardest thing I have ever attempted,” said Brandt. “It was a learning experience. It was hard to bring back a plant like this that has failed- twice. It normally does not happen.”
“We have two attorneys helping us to get through the legal and regulatory issues,” said Brandt. “We began with seventeen. Unfortunately, this is what we need to get this plant open and fight through all of the red tape. We also have a great team that helped get this plant back up and running. We refer to them as part of our team, not just employees. We are a family. We used all local contractors to restart the plant, 100 per cent. As of today, we have 195 people employed. We are also involved in the community. We have a great team.”
“Our core mission statement and philosophy is just one word: respect,” said Brandt. “It’s what we stand for. Respect for each other as human beings, respect for the animals we are sacrificing, respect for our community, our environment, and our customers. You can sense it in all of the team member’s eyes. Respect is what we strive for everyday.”
“We are a toll processing facility,” said Brandt. “We will process meat for anyone, including our competitors. We are here to do a job. We will help someone build a brand. We are currently running two days a week slaughter and three days a week fabrication.”
“Fortunately, after a year and a half of tense negotiations and lots of attorneys, we finally have a permit to discharge up to 200,000 gallons of wastewater per day to the city’s wastewater treatment plant this month. We are limited on how much cattle we can process. This is about ten percent of what National Beef was able to process, although it was a transferable permit. We may be able to increase production by five percent next month. It is frustrating; because we have a financial model we are supposed to meet. Because the transferable permit was not transferred to us, we had to go out and find another way to process water. We found a way that cleans and purifies it. It requires 90 percent less energy, producing cleaner wastewater that can be reclaimed and used on farm ground. It is used all over the world, if fact it is used in seven plants in California. We have passed the CEQA permit. We have a permit from the California Regional Water Quality Board. We got these permits months and months ago. We are hopeful we will get the permit (from the city) to build our water processing system. We will give this water a secondary beneficial use and not have to put it down the drain. It’s a challenge because we spent a lot of money, a lot energy, a lot of resources, and a lot of time away from building a business dealing with the city permit issues.”
“We brought the Brawley Beef name back, after tough negotiations to get the name rights back for our own home town,” said Brandt. “That is beef being produced right now.”
“We welcome tours and visits,” continued Brandt. “We are tour ready and audit ready. That is our motto.”
“We are excited about the future,” said Brant. “We want to grow and hire more people, like we proposed to the banks. This plant is here for the Valley to create more jobs. Total refurbishments to date have reached $9 million. We have a lot invested, as you can see.”