EDITOR'S NOTE: The slaughterhouse will be 50,000 square feet. The story has been corrected.
KIOMATIA — Northwestern Red River County is projected to be home to a new slaughterhouse and fish farm, capable of employing up to 200 people in five years, thanks to the efforts of a Canadian born Guthrie, Oklahoma, resident.
For the past five years, Calvin Burgess has worked hard to design and build a massive 50,000-square-foot slaughterhouse, with a capacity of processing animals as large as buffalo and designed to process Blue Belgium cattle up to 2,200 pounds, along with a state-of-the-art fish farm in the Kiomatia area.
Five years from now, Burgess projects the operation to be up and running.
“Our plans are all to do with a lot of water we have on this property,” Burgess said. “There’s an aquifer that comes from Oklahoma and dips down into a very small area, about a mile and a half long, and probably 1,500 feet deep and it’s on our property,” he said. “It’s artisan, and it’s got tremendous reserves of water. With that water, we’re doing some things that are really unique.”
Burgess said the water will principally be used for a fish farm, however, it will not be the typical Northeast Texas catfish farm.
“This will probably be the most high-tech farm in the world,” he said.
The highly bio-secure and complex system was designed with the assistance of the Freshwater Institute.
Burgess’ farm will produce salmon and steelhead, raised in an all enclosed system of ponds.
“Our water is cold, clean and clear,” he said. “Eventually, we’ll produce about 60 million pounds a year of fish, which is enormous. We’ll be the largest fish producer in the U.S.”
The sushi grade fish will be processed on the farm before being shipped.
The operation will come full circle with a slaughterhouse that will provide food for the fish.
“These fish are carnivorous fish, and they have to have at least 50% meat in their diet,” Burgess said. “The slaughterhouse is going to be a major slaughterhouse. Maximum capacity is 60 head an hour, but I think we’ll run somewhere between 30 and 40 an hour.”
Burgess said that over 300 pounds of each animal left over after processing will be utilized in a feed mill, capable of producing 11,000 pounds of feed in an hour and providing a portion of ingredients for fish or dog food.
Burgess estimates the slaughterhouse will process approximately 200,000 head of cattle per year.
“For East Texas, that’s a big slaughterhouse,” he said. “Most of your slaughterhouses are out west. Your closest slaughterhouses are back out in the Amarillo area. It’s a long haul for them, an eight- to 10-hour drive, so you have a pretty good shrink on the cattle by the time they get there, so a lot of those will come here.”
Burgess said that cattle processed within the slaughterhouse will be dry aged, requiring a tremendous amount of refrigeration.
“That’s the way beef used to be done,” he said. “It makes it so much better. Most of the beef now is killed, wrapped in plastic and shipped to the store.”
Burgess says the slaughterhouse will be capable of holding 3,000 head of cattle at a time for the dry aging process.
Burgess added that a large portion of the cattle will be grass fed.
“It’s really the best thing you can do,” he said. “Grass-fed beef is far better for you than grain fed. You have virtually no chance of e. coli, listeria or salmonella. All of those things go away with grass-fed beef.”
Burgess’ farm is completely self-sustaining, and includes a concrete plant, drilling rigs, runway, liquid oxygen plant, propane system and runway.
Burgess is the founder and owner of an informal identity of a number of companies known as the Dominion Group.
Burgess’ companies provide a range of services and products, from office properties in the central U.S. to large-scale farming operations all over the world, including Kenya.
According to The Dominion Group website, Burgess has responded to opportunities to privatize governmental functions and projects for which state and federal agencies lacked the funding or flexibility to deliver themselves.
In addition to government contracting and leasing and commercial farming, the Dominion Companies are involved in aircraft maintenance and modifications, lodging and manufacturing.
Burgess’ companies date back to 1977, when he founded a general contracting firm. After the firm expanded into commercial real estate in 1986, the Dominion Group has sited, designed, built and financed over 3.2 million square feet of public and commercial properties.