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Neosho Daily News - Neosho, MO
  • Opal Foods acquires Moark

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  • Moark’s Midwest egg production assets have been purchased by Opal Foods, an entity created by AGR Partners with the assistance of Rose Acre Farms and Weaver Brothers, and company headquarters are in Neosho.
    Opal Foods general manager Jerry Welch, said Land O’Lakes made a strategic decision to exit the egg industry and focus on their core businesses of dairy and feed. This partnership came together.
    “Which is experienced egg industry veterans that are focused on the egg business itself — and that is their core business — so I think it’s going to be a good fit,” Welch said.
    Welch said Opal Foods’ initial operations will consist of more than five million laying hens at farms in Missouri and Colorado, a new farm at Neosho that will eventually be home to 800,00 cage-free hens.
    “We have the hathaway facility here in Neosho that holds 2.6 million, then our new school cage-free facility is permitted for 800,000 cage-free birds,” he said. “It currently is holding 400,000, so that project isn’t complete.”
    Welch said the company’s Eggland’s Best operation in Anderson, is 800,000 birds.
    “And then we also work with area farmers, who contract and grow for us cage-free,” he said.
    Welch said the cage-free operations will allow the company to continue to market eggs in California. He said the voter-approved Proposition 2, though vague, basically states that a bird must be able to spread its wings and turn around without touching anything.
    “So the industry feels it’s going to come down to basically reducing the number of birds in a facility, so less-dense, cage-free type operations is what it’s going to be,” he said.
    Welch said California also approved a statute that mandates anything coming into the state had to be grown by California standards, (which has been challenged by the attorneys general of several other states including Missouri).
    “So some in the industry are putting in what we call ‘enrichable’-type cages and also the aviary cage-free systems that will meet those standards,” he said.
    Welch said the company has done “quite a bit of business in California” in the past, and has set the stage to continue that with recent renovations to area farms.
    Some of those renovations provide Opal Foods with some of the most modern facilities in the country.
    Welch said, “It’s the ventilation and the manure handling systems. What we call ‘tunnel ventilation’ technology, which just provides a better, cleaner atmosphere for the birds. Also the manure systems in these houses, the manure when it comes out on a belt it’s air-dried, so it’s less odor, less ammonia.”
    Page 2 of 3 - With the air around the plant monitored by the Department of Natural Resources on a monthly basis, Welch said it has been at least a couple of years since any bad air complaints have been received.
    In a prepared released, Welch said, “Opal Foods is proud to continue to supply customers with the highest quality eggs to help meet the category’s strong and growing demand.  Opal Foods’ stewardship will provide its customers and end consumers with a sustainable source of protein and valuable nutrition for years to come.
    “Opal Foods is interested in growth opportunities in egg production operations. (It) recognizes the shift to healthier diets as a catalyst to the growth for the egg industry, as individuals and restaurants embrace the trend to increase protein consumption, expand breakfast and lunch menus that include eggs.”
    With Opal foods’ company headquarters in Neosho, Welch said the company will retain the more than 250 employees previously employed by Moark in the Midwest, and as a franchisee for Eggland’s Best, will continue serving the same customers.
    As they complete the school project, on the north side of Highway D near the hathaway facility, he said the processing plant and the farm itself will employ about 55 additional workers.
    The release announcing the sale of Moark, which was closed on Friday, states, “As of Saturday morning we are Opal Foods LLC.”
    Welch said Moark has basically come full-circle since it’s acquisition by Land O’Lake.
    “I mentioned, I think it’s a good fit,” he said. “We’re back to where eggs are the core business to our owners; and that’s going to fit well with us, and it will be good for our employees as well. “
    The release continues, AGR Partners pursues non-controlling investments and seeks to partner with best-in-class management teams and business owners. Rose Acre Farms and Weaver Brothers have been strategic partners in the creation of Opal Foods.  
    The partners will assist Opal Foods and its management team in building an industry leader in the production and distribution of fresh eggs that meet the nation’s needs for a healthy source of protein.  
    Ejnar Knudsen, managing member of AGR Partners and a director of Opal Foods said, “The AGR team is grateful to be working with such a strong team in Opal, supported by great partners with all the resources and expertise from their respective organizations.”
    AGR Partners is a private equity firm based in Visalia, Calif., with capital provided by institutional pension investors.  The firm is dedicated to the pursuit of long-term investments in the food, agriculture value-chain and seeks non-controlling equity or convertible debt structures, to facilitate late-stage growth, strategic acquisitions, and ownership transitions.  
    Page 3 of 3 - AGR Partners’ most recent investment was the purchase of a 20 percent stake in the Ridley Corporation, Australia’s largest animal feed and renderer for $56 million. For further information, see www.AGRpartners.com.
    Rose Acre Farms is a family owned shell egg producer in the United States headquartered in Seymour, Indiana. For further information, see www.goodegg.com.
    Weaver Bros, Inc. is a family owned shell egg producer in the United States headquartered in Versailles, Ohio. For further information, see www.weavereggs.com.

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