Imperial Valley Press
GROW One World Beef continues to
B RAWLEY — By just about any measure, it is apparent that One World Beef has been able to achieve a significant amount of success in the year and two months it has been operating.
Take, for example, its having already hired 261 employees since inception. Also, the continual growth of its export market, which now exports to seven Asian countries on a weekly basis.
Equally impressive is the fact that One Word Beef was approved for export to Hong Kong within eight weeks of its opening, a time frame that pales in comparison to the yearlong wait the approval process typically may take.
“It’s quite an amazing feat, especially for such a young company,” said Chief Executive Officer Eric Brandt.
Yet, more than just a hallmark of the company’s commercial successes, the figures also highlight an equally noble achievement — namely, a business philosophy that has respect and craftsmanship as its core values.
Those core values are on display throughout the 337,000-square foot plant, from the large wooden sign emblazoned with the word “Respect” hanging over the chute that cattle pass through before entering the sprawling facility, to the full-time culinary chefs employed in the plant’s family dining hall.
“We’ve worked hard on really trying to build our culture,” Brandt said.
Dedication to the craft
Brandt’s commitment to offering a niche craft product reflects the high esteem that he holds for the quality of the cattle he processes, many of which come from Valley cattle ranchers.
“We can take these cattle that have been raised to perfection and either bring them in here and make something mediocre or we can make something really special,” Brandt said. “Our focus is more on creating value out of these animals.”
That value is also featured in the brands that OWB produces, including its Brandt Beef, Brawley Beef, Imperial Valley Ranches and Baja Beef brands.
The company’s dedication to craftsmanship is also evident in its decision to delay the launch of its ground beef operations until its core business components were firmly in place.
Although ground beef can contribute significant profits to a meat processor’s bottom line, OWB’s focus was to ensure its operation employed the best worker and consumer safety practices.
The company currently has plans to devote a whole month to testing its operations before rolling out its ground beef products in late February or early March.
“We want to make sure that when we produce something, we’re producing the best of what it can possibly be,” Brandt said.
OWB’s focus on craftsmanship also is reflected in its relatively slower production rate.
The meat processing plant was originally designed to process about 1,600 cattle on a daily basis in a single shift. That daily amount was eventually increased to 2,300 under the ownership of National Beef. OWB’s plans call for a gradual increase from about 700 to about 1,200 head within the next few years.
“Our intention wasn’t and isn’t to run numbers like the previous owners,” Brandt said. “Our model is more of a craft niche producer.”
That slower production rate also may help explain why OWB’s employee turnover rate stands at under 5 percent, in stark contrast to the high turnover rates that are typically found within the meat processing industry across the nation.
A report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2009 stated the turnover rate reaches 100 percent in certain parts of the country.
While a significant number of OWB’s initial hires were former National Beef employees, the company has since recruited individuals with no prior experience, but who have displayed an appreciation for OWB’s core values of craftsmanship and respect.
“We’re open to anybody that wants to fit into this environment and this team culture that we have,” Brandt said. “It’s not for everybody.”
Leveraging its craftsmanship
Expansion efforts at OWB have been largely fueled by demand for its products at the domestic and international level.
Its products have been well-received in international markets such as Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, China, Korea, Taiwan, Mexico, Thailand and Vietnam.
“We’re sending meat from Imperial Valley all over the world,” Brandt said. “Certain countries we’re strictly white table cloth, while other countries we’re selling larger volume cuts.”
A particular source of pride for OWB is its introduction into the Chinese market, considered the world’s fastest-growing overseas market for beef since the recent lifting of its import ban following a mad cow disease scare in 2003.
Currently, only a few facilities in the entire country are actively exporting beef to China, which requires its beef imports to be source- and age-verified, and come from hormone and beta-agonist free cattle.
“It’s exciting to be a part of that small niche of producers that are selling meat to China, let alone a company that’s only just over a year old,” Brandt said.
Locally, Brandt said that he envisions the day when OWB is able to process a good portion of the estimated 400,000 head of cattle that are raised in the Valley.
At the moment, about 90 percent of OWB’s cattle supply is locally raised, with the remaining percentage being filled by other toll processors, Brandt said.
OWB also acts as a toll processor for various other cattle producers, who transport cattle to the Brawley facility for slaughter and processing.
“A lot of customers have been at other facilities that are coming to process their cattle here, obviously for a reason of craftsmanship,” Brandt said. “Our model fits certain producers and that’s why they’re coming here.”