A new 162,000-square-foot meat processing plant opened Oct. 21 in Camp Hill, Pa. The factory, off Lisburn Road, is owned by Ahold USA, which operates grocery store chains Giant, Martin’s and Stop & Shop, and is managed by Vantage Foods.
The plant will cut and package beef and pork products for distribution to Giant’s stores in Pennsylvania, Maryland and surrounding states, said Tracey Pawelski, Ahold’s vice president of external communications.
No animals will be slaughtered at the factory. The carcasses will be brought in from the company’s current suppliers, including Pennsylvania-based brands such as Hatfield and Berks as well as national companies such as Perdue and Smithfield, Pawelski said.
Keeping live animals out of the plant will eliminate any concerns neighbors might have about smells, Leonal Kilgore,Vantage president and CEO, said in a statement announcing the plant last year.
Vantage Foods had already been serving Giant’s Pennsylvania stores prior to the opening of the Camp Hill site, Pawelski said.
The plant’s operations manager, Dave Davidson, said the plant will take seven to nine months to get to full capacity and will employ 750 to 800 people. Pawelski said each shift will eventually have about 400 workers.
Camp Hill was chosen as the site for the plant because of its proximity to major transportation arteries, Pawelski said.
The plant is part of an attempt to rethink the grocery store meat department.
Ahold wants its in-store employees to focus more on customer service, so the new plant will shift the burden of cutting meat out of the stores. The meat staff will now have to spend less time butchering in the back room and will be more accessible to answer buyers’ questions.
“Customers will continue to see familiar faces in the meat department,” Pawelski said.
She said the plant will help Ahold reduce waste, employ more efficient packaging technologies, ensure food safety and improve its management of store inventories.
“This change is expected to be seamless for customers who will continue to enjoy access to popular varieties of fresh, quality meats with the selection and value they’ve come to expect,” Pawelski said.
Giant was already supplying its stores with chicken and fish packaged at other locations, and this plant will concentrate beef and pork operations in a similar way, Davidson, the operations manager, said.
While customers may experience some changes, farmers are unlikely to see much of a change. Ahold will be sticking with its current suppliers rather than shaking up the market, which is a plus for farmers who serve Ahold’s partners.
Because the plant has commercial suppliers and does not slaughter animals, it does not work directly with farmers, Davidson said. He declined to discuss specifics of the machinery used at the plant but noted that it is state-of-the-art.
Pawelski said the company does not release processing volumes.
Davidson said the new factory should improve meat production in the Harrisburg region.
“Our goal is to continue to increase sales and certainly to put out a better product,” he said.