Costco's brand new chicken breeding facility will start right after Labor Day in Fremont with questions still pending as to whether any of the birds will ever come from Lancaster County.
The facility, operated by Lincoln Premium Poultry, will provide Costco 2 million chickens each week. The multimillion-dollar project has been under construction since 2017.
Lincoln Premium Poultry spokeswoman Jessica Kolterman said the first birds will be treated Tuesday.
"We start our first line that day, and we want to make sure all the equipment works with each other, all the machines have to talk to each other," she said. "We're going to work out that technology, and then at the end of the day, we should have products that will be ready for outbound wherever it goes."
The plant will have about 500 employees when it starts up, Kolterman said.
"Given that we started the year with probably around 30 or 40 employees, that's quite the growth pattern," she said.
Operation will begin with a 45-week start-up period, with a first line that will gradually increase in speed as kninks are drafted, Kolterman said. When the line is at full speed, the second and third lines will begin before moving onto the second shift.
The third shift, which includes maintenance and sanitation, will begin when the first two shifts are underway.
The facility will have a grand opening and cut of ribbon on October 1
A handful of poultry farms are now raising broilers for the plant and dozens of others are in various stages of development and construction.
It is unclear at this time whether any of these operations will be in Lancaster County.
An operation, which would have 190,000 chickens on a 75-acre farm at 13350 W. Wittstruck Road in extreme southwest Lancaster County, was approved last year, but neighbors appealed that ruling.
Under Walt Shafer, CEO of Lincoln Premium Poultry, a bench trial in August in Lancaster County court said that the company had essentially moved the proposed operation owned by Randy Essink to the end of the construction plan while she waited for the court should judge.
Shafer said the company expects the construction process for broiler chickens to continue through the summer of 2020.
Judge Jodi Nelson took the case on Essink's farm under counsel, but did not say when she can decide a ruling. The losing side is likely to appeal.
Another operation, twice the size of Essinks, has been proposed in northwest Lancaster County, on the Saunders County line.
A public hearing is scheduled in front of the Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Commission on Wednesday, with significant opposition expected.
These two applications prompted Lancaster County officials to investigate the county's regulatory code, which has very few regulations for large agricultural operations.
A task force last week culminated five months of work by recommending a lot of changes, including introducing setbacks of at least a half mile for closed operations like poultry and one mile for open livestock.
These amendments, if adopted by the County Board, would not take effect for several months.