Vegan Plant Opens 60 Jobs for Mid Missouri

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COLUMBIA- A new vegan manufacturing facility will open in Columbia at the end of fall 2012. The facility is set to hire more than 60 local residents in the next five years.

The 16,000 square feet facility will be home of the brand, Beyond Meat, which produces chicken free strips. Founder and Owner, Ethan Brown, has been collaborating with food science researchers from MU, Fu-hung Hsieh and Harold Huff, for several years before starting the company.

Brown has a background as a clean technician and in clean energy. He has been a vegan for a very long time and he likes protein to be the center of his plate. He said he wanted to create a market where there was a plant-based substitute for chicken, beef, pork and seafood.

"I started working on what technology was out there and what technology was reliable for the commercialization in terms of taking plant based proteins and having them mimic the appearance, texture, mouth feel and overall experience of meat," said Brown.

Brown has a pilot facility for Beyond Meat in Maryland. This past June, they have launched the vegan meat product into areas such as Northern California, the specific Northwest, and the Rocky Mountains. They will start shipping to the east coast in the fall.

"Purpose of the pilot facility is to show that the technology can be transferred from the laboratory where it was developed and into a commercial setting," said Brown.

The facility in Columbia will be 10 times larger and is expected to have greater operations. Brown chose to locate the Beyond Meat manufacturing facility in Columbia because of the relationship he has with the university.

Human Resource Consultant, Tyree Byndom, has been an advocate for Columbia's economy, businesses, staffing and professional recruiting for the past decade. He was retired for about four months and orginally thought he wouldn't work for another company again, but then he heard about Beyond Meat.

"I interviewed with Bob Prusha, the Vice President of Operations for Beyond Meat and we had a good interview," says Byndom. "I really did not want to work for another company again. So when this opportunity came up I investigated them and looked at the research and said why not."

Byndom says Beyond Meat is not just focusing on supplying hourly wage jobs to people who live in Columbia, but they are also focusing on reaching out to all of Mid- Missouri.

"We did interviews on Wednesday. We interviewed 10 people and we hired 6 people to start," said Byndom. "Two of those people live in Columbia."

The combinations of jobs that the facility will offer are packaging, manufacturing jobs, general production jobs, personnel and food safety. These jobs will be broken into hourly wage and managerial positions.

"Over time we expect that the facility could support up to 60 jobs," said Brown. "We will basically be growing on a quarterly basis, but in the beginning we are looking to hire a lot of coworkers."

"Right now we are starting with a first shift that we hire," said Byndom. "That first shift is going to expand at its biggest point right at about 15 to 20 people. Then there is going to be a second shift that we hire, and then there is going to be a third shift. We are looking at [in] four to six months we are going to start hiring a new wave of applicants."

The formal ceremony, which will include a ribbon cutting, will be in the later part of the fall. The facility is located on 1714 Commerce Court. Workers will start training and shipping and distributing Beyond Meat to vendors and customers after Labor Day.