By SHELLY STRAUTZ-SPRINGBORN
IONIA, Mich. — Michigan’s largest egg producer recently unveiled its new feed manufacturing facility, which will help the company meet growing demand for organic and conventional eggs.
Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch in Ionia opened its cutting-edge two-mills-in-one feed manufacturing plant in late August and the facility went into full production last month. The $11 million facility, located on Portland Road south of Ionia, allows Herbruck’s to deliver feed directly to its hens through a conveyor system.
The two side-by-side mills include the Portland Road Mill, with a capacity of 4,000 tons per week of feed for conventional egg production, and the Great Lakes Organic Mill, with a capacity of 3,200 tons per week of feed for organic eggs.
In addition to increased feed capacity, the plant has eliminated 75 truck trips per week hauling feed for 2.8 million of its 6 million hens.
Greg Herbruck, executive vice president at Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch, said the new facility had been talked about for several years, and the project took center stage a couple of years ago as the business continued to grow.
“We had grown our flock size and had not kept up with the rest of the infrastructure,” he said. “Our feed mill was working around the clock and our organic producer was doing the same.”
Herbruck’s is Michigan’s largest egg producer and one of the largest in the nation, employing nearly 400 people and producing more than 1.5 billion eggs per year. “We were at risk,” Herbruck said. “We were running a system that if something breaks, we could have a lot of hungry chickens.”
While the farm had not experienced any problems, he said it was time to make the investment and grow the farm’s feed capacity for the future.
“We overshot what we currently need,” he said. “We now have enough capacity for future growth. This is a major investment in our business and in our community.”
The facility also increases efficiency through new technology that will help Herbruck’s make continuous quality improvements. The facility features an enclosed receiving and shipping area to prevent dust from escaping, and dust collection bag houses are used at receiving pits, corn grinders, elevator legs and mixers. In addition, the new complex will also reduce risks to their hens’ feed supply.
According to Herbruck, the farm’s feed inputs come from local farmers, most of which are within a 25-mile radius of the farm. He said these suppliers are key to the success of their operation.
“We can’t feed chickens if we don’t have a good local supply of corn,” he said. “We have great relationships with our suppliers. This is a solid connection and commitment to them.
“For several of our suppliers, it knocked off a lot of miles on their trips to deliver corn. It’s also much faster. With this high-speed system, the time to unload is less.”
Herbruck said the facility also helps the farm be better stewards to its neighbors by decreasing its carbon footprint, and through general safety for those traveling nearby roadways.
Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) Director Jamie Clover Adams lauded the farm for its stewardship practices and expansion. “This is just one example of how the agriculture sector in general is expanding,” she said. “This expansion means jobs for the local community.
“They used local contractors, engineers and architects to build the facility. To me, they’re a model. They care about the community. They are good environmental stewards. They do things right, and that’s important to them.”
“Herbruck’s new feed production facilities are the result of innovation and hard work by countless people who want to provide the best products to consumers and the best care to our hens, and that’s something we celebrate,” company President Stephen Herbruck said.
“As a family business with deep roots in Michigan, we are proud of our investment, which sends a clear signal that we are focused on growing our business, meeting new demands, supporting our employees and driving Michigan agriculture forward.”
Herbruck’s has been producing organic eggs since the 1990s and is a major franchisee and distributor for the Eggland’s Best brand. Herbruck’s also provides eggs for companies such as Meijer, Sam’s Club and Cargill Kitchen Solutions, which supply major fast-food restaurants.
The company has seen demand for conventional eggs increase while its organic egg segment is the fastest growing in the company, with plans to increase its organic laying hens from 760,000 to more than 1.25 million this year. Founded in 1958, Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch is a third-generation family business.