TAKING THE TOUR:

TAKING THE TOUR: Darling Ingredient employees and representatives from various communities and agencies return from a tour of the new facility Monday morning. The rendering plant east of Wahoo officially opened its doors on a recent expansion project. (Staff Photo by LIsa Brichacek)

WAHOO – A new protein conversion facility opened its doors Monday morning.

Darling Ingredients, Inc., located on County Road 13 east of Wahoo, held a grand opening to celebrate the expansion of its existing facility, which includes Nebraska’s first operation dedicated solely to poultry conversion.

Gov. Pete Ricketts, State Sen. Bruce Bostelman and other dignitaries from nearby communities were on hand to cut the ribbon and officially open the facility.

Rick Elrod, executive vice president for Darling USA, told the crowd gathered that the construction project has taken 4 1/2 years. He pointed out that the team in place at the facility was able to keep operations going at the rendering plant while expansion was taking place.

“That’s job well done,” he said.

But, he also pointed out it was time to unveil the new facility and showcase its impact.

“What you see today is a $42 million investment in the State of Nebraska,” he said.

The project has involved a new red meat plant, new meal grinding system, added capacity to the wastewater treatment system, added capacity to the natural gas line, new truck shop, new truck wash, and new loadout.

The project also involved a new, totally separate facility for poultry. Costco/Lincoln Premium Poultry has contracted with Darling to render the byproducts from its new chicken processing plant in Fremont.

Elrod said there were a few more components to install on the chicken rendering side, but that would be wrapped up soon.

“It’s a very simple plant, but it’s very complex as well,” he added.

Darling Chief Executive Officer Randy Stuewe said rendering business isn’t exactly the right description for what his company does.

He called it a repurposing and re-processing of ingredients.

“We are the original recycling business,” Stuewe said.

The international company recycles into edible products. Collegian is one of the products produced by the company that is commonly sought out in the health and beauty stores. Sports nutrients and sausage casings are also products that comes from Darling’s recycling.

Animal feed, pet food and organic fertilizer are also produced during operation.

Stuewe pointed out biodiesel gets a boost as well from the animal fats and used cooking oils that come from

operations.

Ricketts praised Darling as well as nearby Wahoo and Fremont for collaborating to bring more jobs to the area and develop a business that works hand in hand with agriculture.

“That’s what it means to do economic development,” he said.

Bostelman agreed.

“It takes a lot of players to come together to make this happen,” he said.

He added it was good to see a project that could expand what was already right here in Saunders County.

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