21 January 2000

Work starts on meat plant Processing plant

WORK started this week on a farmer-owned state-of-the-art meat processing plant in Devon.

It is being built for Triple S Ranch, a public limited company whose 185 shareholders are almost all beef producers and which already has a working partnership with a large bakery making high quality pasties and pies from fully traceable forequarter meat supplied by West Country Beef Ltd, a subsidiary of Triple S.

The new plant will enable hind quarters currently being sold whole to be cut into primal joints and supplied direct to caterers and retailers. Other added-value operations, such as burger production and eventually a major expansion into sales through the internet, will also be possible.

The site, on the Heathfield Industrial Estate near Newton Abbot, already has a large warehouse, coldstore and offices. Eventually pork and lamb will be processed there as well as beef.

Director and procurement manager Richard Haddock said the business could eventually employ up to 150 people.

Part of the £2m cost of the plant is covered by the original share capital and the rest – "a significant sum" – is to be borrowed from the NFU Mutuals venture capital fund.

"That shows the Mutual still has confidence in agriculture and this project has the full support of the south-west NFU," said Mr Haddock after the turf-cutting ceremony on Monday. "We feel its a blueprint for regional branding under a British logo and I hope others will be able to learn from what we are doing."

The whole project has had no public grants other than a £2500 contribution to the £20,000 original feasibility study which was done for the whole south-west region and which also had considerable help from the NFU SW, he said.

Triple S chairman David Hill said the plc had been set up under the Enterprise Investment Scheme which meant share capital was tax-deductible for subscribers. &#42