Iowa Secretary of Agriculure Bill Northey, left, learns of the Crystal Freeze Dry operaton here from company CEO Leonardo Etcheto.

Northey tours Crystal Freeze Dry/Nutriom in Panora

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey was in Panora on Tuesday morning where he was given a tour of the Crystal Freeze Dry/Nutriom building, which is being retooled for production of powdered egg products, slated to begin early in 2018.

Guiding him around the facility, which formerly housed Cargill Kitchen Solutions, were Leonardo Etcheto, CO, and Kirby Klinge, plant manager. They briefed Northey on the plant operations.

Dozens of workers from various trades are busy preparing the building for production, which Etcheto hopes will begin in mid-February with full production involving three shifts and 30 people by late March.

Presently the company has a plant in Lacey, WA. 

“We’ve been looking to come to Iowa for sometime,” said Etcheto, “Washington lacks egg supples. We don’t need a huge facility, this is a good in-between size building.” (The Cargill plant closed in April of 2013.) The new firm is also renting a building north of the Panora Church of the Brethren for storage purposes.

Crystal Freeze Dry’s selling point is their products actually taste like eggs and have no additives. “Our product is mostly for people who just want an egg,” said Etcheto, rather than a product added to other foods. However, they do have products such a french toast mixture, egg white protein or a spray product that can be added to other foods.

When production begins, liquid eggs will be shipped here for processing. The company believes they have a unique method. This primarily involves running a very thin layer of eggs over  a belt that is heated by hot water. This evaporates most of the water from the liquid eggs.

Freeze drying takes care of the remaining moisture, said Klinge. The finished products can be stored up to several years.

The finished product is a yellow powder. For consumption, water is added and the produce heated. 

Northey asked a number of questions and was very attentive to the presentation  “Very impressive,” he said in summing up his visit and the 60-minute tour, “thank you for coming to Iowa,” he told Etcheto.

The Iowa official has been nominated for an under secretary position in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but the nomination has been held up for what some say are political reasons by oil interests. Northey is known for his support of ethanol. Asked about the holdup, he said, “There’s no new news that I know of.” 

Crystal Freeze Dry is a family operation involving the father, Hernan Etcheto, and sons Leonardo and Rodrigo. They purchased the Panora building in January of 2016 and have Iowa roots.

Some local people employed for production have already been sent to the Washington plant to learn of the operation. In the meantime, they’re keeping busy as Tuesday they were painting.

Etcheto pointed out the company has room to expand to the west.

For Kirby Klinge it’s somewhat of an ironic turn of events as he finds himself back in the plant he managed for a number of years for Cargill and its predecessors. The Cargill plant most recently produced peeled hard boiled eggs.

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