Modesto may not bring home the bacon

07/25/2014 8:02 PM

07/25/2014 10:30 PM

A longtime Modesto meat processor and distributor that employs more than 100 workers is considering expanding its business and creating scores of new jobs – but the growth may not happen here.

Yosemite Meat Co. has looked at locations in Brigham City and Box Elder County in northwest Utah for its expansion. No decisions have been made, but Utah has approved nearly $1.4 million in tax credits as an incentive for Yosemite Meat to expand in that state.

Yosemite Meat Vice President Steven Lau said it’s premature to talk about his company’s plans and declined to provide details.

The family-owned company was founded in Modesto in 1981 by Lau’s parents, John and Gay. It slaughters pigs and processes and distributes pork, chicken and beef to customers, including supermarkets. Lau said the company has about 150 employees. The business started on Yosemite Boulevard but moved to Zeff Road in south Modesto about two decades ago.

Company officials want to grow their business with a new venture called Nature Food Products, while keeping their Modesto operations. “We are just looking at expanding our business,” Lau said. “We’ve never said anything about relocating.”

Modesto, the Stanislaus Business Alliance and Stanislaus County officials have teamed up to persuade Yosemite Meat to grow its business here. “We are working with Yosemite Meat Co. to have them expand here,” Modesto Business Center Manager Laurie Smith said. “These are good-paying jobs.”

Yosemite Meat Co. officials spoke about their plans at the Dec. 5 Brigham City Council meeting. According to the minutes from that meeting:

• Yosemite Meat has grown to become one of the top 25 pork processing companies in the United States, and company officials are looking to expand under a new venture called Nature Food Products. They said they treat their workers like family and nearly a quarter of their employees have been with them 10 to 21 years.
• The expansion would take place in three phases, starting with a slaughtering operation. About 2,000 pigs a day would be slaughtered and the meat shipped to California and other Western states. The next phase is processing the carcasses for the wholesale and retail markets. The final phase is making bacon and sausage.
• The expansion would start with about 120 workers and have more than 250 at the final phase. The wages for those more than 250 workers would total about $10 million annually. The benefits include health and dental insurance, a 401(k) plan and bonuses.
• Company officials’ goal is to build the “first fully transparent facility in the United States and try to change the stigma of the meat industry.”

Brigham City Economic Development Director Paul Larsen said Yosemite Meat had identified a site in Brigham City for the expansion but has reconsidered because of the cost of infrastructure improvements. Box Elder County Economic Director Mitch Zundel said the company is looking at locations in the county.

But they said Yosemite Meat has not made any decisions. Larsen added that the company has looked elsewhere in Utah and in Idaho for a site for its new facility. Yosemite Meat officials have worked with Box Elder County for about 18 months and for nearly a year with Brigham City officials.

Lau said his company has looked at expanding for years and has “looked at multiple states on the West Coast.”

In September, the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development announced that Yosemite Meat was expanding in Utah with its Nature Food Products venture and the state had approved tax credits of nearly $1.4 million over 10 years for the company. The news release stated Yosemite Meat would spend more than $20 million on its new plant.

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