Bacon ribbon cutting

Representatives from JBS, BaconTown and Ottumwa Chamber of Commerce ambassadors cut the ribbon on Ottumwa JBS’s new expansion. This will add six new lines of production, a new smokehouse, and 25 new jobs to the plant’s bacon division.

OTTUMWA — Ottumwa JBS is expanding its bacon division with six new production lines, a new smokehouse and 25 new positions.

“We’re thrilled about this expansion — what it means for us, and what it means for [Ottumwa],” said Tom Lopez, president of JBS’s prepared foods division. “It just makes me hungry for more bacon.”

Since it opened in 1976, the plant that is now Ottumwa JBS has produced more than a billion pounds of meat and currently employs more than 2,000 people locally. This new expansion will cost JBS $20 million.

Lopez said that unlike other grocery store commodities, bacon sales continue to grow by 3-4 percent annually, which makes the cost worth it.

“This expansion really allows us to supply that increase in demand,” Lopez said. “We’re most excited about the benefit of continuing to bring jobs and employment here to people in Ottumwa. They’ve been the lifeblood of our company here.”

This announcement came out alongside news that the annual BaconTown festival will be returning to Bridge View next month. BaconTown, a partnership between JBS and KIIC, is a festival which features 20 vendors from around southeast Iowa selling more than 2,000 pounds of JBS-provided bacon.

“It’s just a celebration, it’s a fun time to recognize that this is something to be grateful for and be known for,” said Joe Milledge, owner of KIIC and lead organizer of BaconTown. “This is BaconTown USA.”

From noon to 6 p.m. Nov. 23, Bridge View’s main expo hall will be converted into an artificial town, complete with backdrops created by a Broadway company based in California. Local restaurants like Appanoose Rapids and Warehouse Barbecue will be present, as well as others from Oskaloosa and around Davis County. Albia Brewing Company will be selling bacon-flavored beer.

There will be live music, and a bounce-house for kids provided by Community 1st Credit Union.

This is the first year BaconTown is adding Club Sizzle, an event for people 21 and older, that begins after the main festival concludes at 6 p.m. That will last two hours.

Admission is free, and a portion of the bacon sales goes to support the vendors.

Jack Langland can be reached at jlangland@ottumwacourier.com.

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