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Prospective buyers come from all over

March 26, 2002|By DARREN SIMON

Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — If the beef-processing plant here is to succeed, it must have buyers, and after three months of operation there are buyers finding their way to this desert city.

The plant has 150 buyers for its products. That includes 25 new buyers who signed up in the last week.

Still, Brawley Beef officials say that is far from enough.

"We have to quadruple that amount," said Greg Beck, president and chief operating officer of Brawley Beef.

On the day the Press took a tour of the beef plant, a buyer from Tokyo was inspecting the beef that his company — Marubeni American Corp. — is considering purchasing for export to Japan. The corporation already purchases cattle hides from Brawley Beef.

Representatives of the Japanese company said they were drawn to Brawley Beef because of what they called source verification — they can track where the cattle came from and how the animals were raised before becoming Brawley Beef product.


The cattle for the plant are all supplied by the owners of Brawley Beef, cattle ranchers in the Imperial Valley and Arizona who invested in the plant and formed Brawley Beef LLC. Because of that, beef plant officials say they can assure the quality of the beef.

"It's all about product safety," said Beck as he watched Marubeni representatives inspect the beef.

Keizo Kada, a salesman for Marubeni, said the goal of his company is "to promote (Brawley Beef) in Japan."

The list of 150 buyers includes major retailers and processors, among them Albertson's, Stater Bros., United Grocers, Farmer John, U.S. Foods, Cisco and the processors that make product for Taco Bell and Jack-In-The-Box.

Locally, Sizzler in El Centro gets its beef from U.S. Foods, which purchases from Brawley Beef. Escalera's Su Casa and the Stockmen's Club of Imperial Valley, both in Brawley, also use Brawley Beef.

Andre Michel, manager at Sizzler in El Centro, said the Brawley Beef product "so far has been excellent compared to the meat we used to get. Brawley Beef is far superior so far."

Albert Escalera, owner of Escalera's Su Casa, said he purchases Brawley Beef product from Cisco in San Diego.

Like Michel, he said it is a better product then what Su Casa previously purchased.

"The response from the people has been very positive as far as the texture and taste," Escalera said. "It's just so tender."

Chuck Johnson, vice president in charge of commercial affairs for Brawley Beef, said of the effort to bring in new buyers, "It's right on stream. I think as we ramp up we look to gain speed and expand our customer base."

He added, "We have to prove to the marketplace we have a good product. We have to take customers away from others."

Company officials joked the people in the Imperial Valley may already be eating Brawley Beef product and not know it.

For the city of Brawley, the beef plant is proving to be an aid for promotion, said City Manager Jerry Santillan.

"It's a great marketing tool for us," Santillan said.

He said already companies from outside the Valley, such as beef processors and distributors, are taking an interest in moving into the community to provide ancillary services related to the beef plant.

In addition, Santillan said since Brawley Beef opened there has been an increase in the number of local businesses looking to expand and seeking loans from the city to do so. He said whereas in past years maybe two local businesses sought loans for expansion, there have been eight that have done so since the beef plant opened in December.

Beck said that is to be expected as more money moves through the community.

"We know that the employee payroll will turn over approximately seven times before it leaves the community," he said.

Beck added the city and beef plant can benefit from each other.

"There is a symbiotic relationship between the company and the community and the community and the company," Beck said.

>> Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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