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Mountain States Lamb Cooperative purchases JBS plant

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Greeley, Colo. – On Nov. 23, Mountain States Lamb Cooperative (MSLC) announced that they have entered into an agreement with JBS USA to acquire JBS’s Greeley Lamb Plant and all related assets.

“By acquiring JBS Greeley Lamb, our company will truly be ‘range to table,’ strengthening the sustainability of the American sheep industry in the Mountain West and United States,” states Frank Moore, chairman of MSLC.

Acquiring the plant

JBS processed nearly all the lambs for MSLC, and this acquisition means that the entire production process will be within the confines of MSLC.

“JBS has enjoyed a long-standing partnership with MSLC and believes this announcement will benefit both parties, notably the more than 120 JBS team members who will have the opportunity to continue their careers in the U.S. lamb industry,” says Andre Nogueira, CEO of JBS USA. “As a world leader in fresh lamb production with significant assets in Australia, lamb will remain a strategic part of the JBS global business model.”

Brad Boner, vice chairman of MSLC, comments, “This pending acquisition represents a major opportunity for MSLC to add harvest capabilities, an integral piece of the value chain, to our already vertically-integrated business model.  Our members will now control all stages of the production of their lamb – raising, harvesting, processing, packaging, marketing and distribution.” 

Next steps

Completion of the acquisition is pending a successful equity drive and bank financing.

Moore notes that producers are in the process of undertaking an effort to raise the remaining equity needed to finalize the transaction. During that time, MSLC will work to address all necessary details to ensure the transition from JBS to Mountain States Rosen is “as seamless as possible with no disruption in operations.”

“With this acquisition, we will truly be 100 percent vertically-integrated and have 100 percent control of our product, from pasture to plate,” Moore says. “The purchase of this plant is a tremendous opportunity.”

Inside MSLC

MSLC is a multi-state, producer-owned marketing cooperative based in Douglas. In the late 1990s, a group of producers formed the organization in an effort to increase margins and make the industry more sustainable while also halting the decline of the American sheep industry.

“The biggest problem with anything in agriculture is in the markets, so we started MSLC to get a handle on it,” says Moore.

With the first meeting of MSLC in September 1999, a group of sheep producers gathered to attempt to turn the sinking industry around.

“There was a group of producers that were, to a point, working with the sheep industry for 10 or 15 years and trying to turn the ship around with limited to no success,” says Boner. “A core group got together and decided to do something about it.”

“We all felt strongly that if we didn’t do something drastic, our kids weren’t going to have the same opportunities to be in the sheep business if they wanted to,” continues Boner.

Starting out

The first MSLC lambs were slaughtered in December 2001 on a contract basis.

MSLC bought 50 percent interest in a meat company in the Bronx, New York, N.Y..

In September 2008, MSLC bought the remaining 50 percent of the meat company and now owns Mountain States Rosen. Mountain States Rosen is the fabrication, distribution and marketing arm of MSLC, says Boner.

This year, MSLC surpassed 3 million lambs marketed.  With producers in 15 states, MSLC maximizes the potential for profit for its members by paying for quality on a premium grid and also offers premiums for all-natural, source-verified lambs.

“MSLC did a lot to stabilize the sheep industry, and certainly the lamb side of it,” says Moore.

“We hope to continue to make the Co-op stronger and the industry stronger,” Moore adds. “MSLC is a success story.”

Looking ahead

As MSLC looks to the future, Moore comments that the Co-op will make an aggressive effort to complete the purchase agreement as soon as possible.

“We see so much opportunity in front of us,” he says. “This purchase will create better communication and give us better control of our product through the entire process.

Moore adds, “This is an opportunity, not only for MSLC but for the whole industry.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at

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