FREMONT, Neb. — In an unprecedented move, to keep its chicken prices low, Costco has opened a 400,000 square foot poultry plant in Fremont, NE. In an effort to answer questions and to help residents learn more about the project, Costco held an open house in the new facility on Saturday, October 19.
Jessica Kolterman, director of corporate and external affairs for the plant, says this process allows for transparency.
"Well, you know I think it really demystifies this entire process," Kolterman said. "It's not some nebulous, scary thing."
It's the largest poultry facility in the state. Once the plant is in full production, Costco will process about 2 million chicken per week, providing 40% of the company's annual chicken needs. But, with this new facility comes backlash.
Protesters, like Doug Wittman of the WinItBack Tea Party Patriots of Dodge County, are mostly concerned about the environmental effects of so many surrounding chicken barns in the area.
"We've discovered that lots of people that are being asked to be neighbors to these barns scattered throughout the eastern part of Nebraska are really upset," Wittman said.
Matthew Cronin with the Douglas County Farmers Union says this type of farming has repercussions that will set the state up with challenges in the future.
We need to measure the discharge rates at a more stringent level. I think that goes for all the barns around the area too," Cronin said.
However, Kolterman affirms the main poultry poultry plant will not be producing any waste.
"In terms of like concern about any environmental hazards or anything that's concerning, this is pretty much everything we use is food grade. It has to be," Kolterman said. "So there really shouldn't be any problems."
The mega-facility was welcomed early on Saturday, October 19 with a ribbon cutting.
Governor Pete Ricketts called this a major feat for all of Nebraska.
"This is helping in so many different fronts. This overall project we expect will have an over a billion dollar impact on the state of Nebraska," Ricketts said.
Kolterman agrees. She adds this new facility is adding jobs to the area.
"98% of our employees are Nebraskans. It means they were already here. Of that 98%, over 51% were Fremont," Kolterman she said.
She adds the new poultry plant hopes to be transparent, as it moves up to full capacity by next summer.
"There is really nothing to hide here. There's no secrecy. There's no mystery. It's where our food comes from."