The Plant is a gigantic food and beverage production facility on Chicago’s South Side. The three-story, 100,000-square-foot former meatpacking plant started out in 1925 as Buehler Brothers and then operated as Peer Food Products from 1944 until 2007. A hive of activity where innovative closed-loop systems are paramount, The Plant sits squarely between a gritty industrial area and a residential neighborhood known as Back of the Yards. Its yield of delectable products includes, among other things, microgreens, cheese, beer, kombucha, gelato, chocolate, and honey.
Plans are afoot for the formal opening of the Packingtown Museum in a former ham freezer at The Plant in the near future. Offering exhibits and programs about Chicago’s past as “hog butcher for the world,” the museum will explore the ties between meatpacking, immigrants, organized labor, local railways, innovation, and Chicago’s Union Stock Yard scene.
Green Upgrade Details
The Plant’s objective is to be a closed-loop “living laboratory” where waste is reimagined as a resource. Throughout the building, one is surrounded by repurposed building components and salvaged materials. For example, stormwater from the roof is collected in a cistern that in Peer Food days was a 9,000-gallon brine tank used in pork pickling. It is then piped to The Plant’s outdoor farms for irrigation.
Where pig carcasses once hung on the factory’s ground floor, vertical microgreens grow year-round. Bathrooms and showers were fashioned from old meat smokehouses.
Parked out back behind the vegetables is a long, shiny cylinder that resembles an oil truck but is actually an anaerobic digester. When the digester comes online, food waste that can’t be reused will be fed into it, and the biogas generated as the food degrades will be used as fuel for boilers, chillers and other onsite equipment.
Bubbly Dynamics LLC (owner and operator of The Plant).