Rantoul Foods, Rantoul, Ill., is starting off 2012 with plans to add five loading docks and a $1.8 million cooling unit. The project at the former Meadowbrook Farms plant is expected to begin as weather permits, reports the News-Gazette.

Currently, the facility’s daily slaughter runs between 3,700 and 4,000 market hogs. The plant operates one shift and employees about 300 people, that’s up from 150 workers in 2010.

“There are not enough docks,” James Jendruczek, Rantoul Foods president and managing partner, told the News-Gazette. “We will have eight docks that we can load out fresh product,” once the project is complete.

Rantoul Foods was created when the owners of Trim-Rite Foods purchased the former Meadowbrook Farms Facility on Sept. 17, 2010, according to the company’s website.

Meadowbrook Farms began as a producer-owned packing plant cooperative in 2004. The facility was owned by the 200 co-op members from Illinois, Iowa, Indiana and Wisconsin who bought shares in the plant and committed a certain number of hogs to slaughter. The 120,000-square-foot plant was capable of processing 150 million pounds of pork annually, which corresponds to around 3,600 hogs a day. On March 21, 2009, Meadowbrook Farms filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Trim-Rite previously invested $11 million in the facility to get it up and running efficiently. “Right now, they’re running at a rate that the previous owners never came close to,” Chris Kaler, Rantoul Chamber of Commerce director, told Taylorville Daily News.

Rantoul Foods and Trim-Rite Foods are sister companies that service the retail, foodservice, further processing and export markets with fresh and frozen pork. It’s the growth in the export market that is a significant driver in this current planned expansion. Last year was a record-setting year for U.S. pork exports and 2012 is projected to be strong, with further growth in the years ahead.

Rantoul Foods prides itself on providing a wide-range of high-quality products that are made and delivered to customer specifications, Jendruczek says.

“Delegations from Japan and China come in and they find it to be top quality,” says Kaler.