IDAHO FALLS – The owners of a new meatpacking plant are hoping to open in Idaho Falls next year.
Intermountain Packing recently acquired a nine-acre piece of property on Iona Road. It’s on the east side of the canal and the railroad tracks near D-C Salvage between Holmes and Woodruff.
General Manager Bob Stirling tells EastIdahoNews.com the plant will occupy a 50,000-square-foot space. Construction is slated to begin in mid-October or late September at the earliest.
“We are very excited to bring this plant to southeast Idaho,” Stirling says.
The $20 million project is being funded by multiple investors, some of which are members of the Roger Ball family.
Intermountain Packing is expected to bring 200 jobs to the area with wages starting at $15/hour. Those jobs will include medical, dental and vacation benefits.
The medium-sized plant will have the capacity to process up to 500 head a day. Once it’s up and running, Stirling says it will focus primarily on beef cattle and bison.
Stirling says there’s been a need for a meatpacking plant in eastern Idaho for many years. The closure of many smaller plants at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic only increased the demand.
“That threw a huge wrench in the industry,” Stirling says. “Many ranchers and feedlot operators didn’t have anywhere to go with their cattle. Live cattle were sitting in feed yards on ranches and then (there were) empty shelves in the grocery store.”
Bison ranching has been a growing trend in recent years. Stirling says cattle ranching can be a tough market and raising bison is sometimes more profitable because it’s a niche market that attracts higher-paying customers.
“A lot of people raise bison because they really like the nostalgia for the old west,” says Stirling. “Bison are much more difficult and dangerous to work with than cattle. You can’t move them on horseback.”
Ranchers use hay to get bison to go where they want them to, Stirling says. They can’t be pushed or prodded along.
“If you try to push them or pressure them, it will turn into a big rodeo,” he says.
Bison meat is leaner than beef and has a similar flavor, Stirling says. It’s also high in protein. Stirling says bison meat is a good alternative for people who worry about their cholesterol or have underlying health issues.
Once the ground is broken for Intermountain Packing, Stirling anticipates construction to last about a year. The company is shooting to open next fall or the following January. It will serve farmers and ranchers throughout Idaho and surrounding states.
“We are looking for a long-term relationship with the city of Idaho Falls for this (project). They’ve been very easy to work with and we appreciate everything they’ve done for us to help make this happen,” says Stirling.