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Evaluating Food Processing Plant Water Use Leads to Increased ROI

two female factory workers in a food processing plant
Credit: iStock/dusanpetkovic

JTM is a multi-million dollar, multi-faceted food processing company that was founded in 1960 as a butcher shop named Maas Brothers.  In 1980, the company was renamed to JTM Food Group to reflect the continued growth of the business. Today, the national company is still rooted in the same principles of the original butcher shop — quality and value. JTM, which serves an estimated half of U.S. schools, provides products to more than 13 million K-12 students at 7,000-plus school districts nationwide. JTM offers more than 150 menu items and delivers a variety of finished food products. Beyond schools, the company targets kitchens in the healthcare and military markets and looks to work with co-manufacturers and retailers calling for slim-down meal alternatives.

JTM needed to find a way to reduce the strength of the wastewater discharged at its facility. The company's cooking operation was identified as a main source of "upstream" wastewater generation, while the "downstream" waste was generated by the organic load of the water discharged to the municipal waste recovery facility. A feasibility study was needed to evaluate reduction of the strength of the wastewater discharged from JTM's facility. JTM partnered with the Center for Innovative Food Technology (CIFT), part of the Ohio Manufacturing Extension Partnership and the MEP National NetworkTM, for a one year project in collaboration with the Dale A. Seiberling Food Engineering Laboratory at The Ohio State University (OSU). Additionally, the Department of Food Science & Technology at OSU teamed with Membrane Specialists (Hamilton, Ohio) in an effort to find new and innovative applications for membrane technology in the food industry.

The MEP Program is a critical factor in the success of manufacturing in Ohio. CIFT's leadership has benefited food manufacturers throughout the state.

—Joe Maas, President

The work completed through this feasibility study and evaluations show that both reclamation of water from the food grade process, and the implementation of an ultra-filtration concentration operation at the end of the pipe, have the ability to reduce total suspended solids, Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD), and Chemical Oxygen Demand

(COD) discharged from JTM's facility.  Economic analyses performed by Membrane Specialists showed a three-year ROI on the installation of a membrane filtration unit at JTM's facility. The insights gained from this project could be applied to any processing facility with an extremely high biochemical oxygen demand load in its effluent.

CIFT helped identify the technology, recommend an approach, worked with the technical provider to apply it, monitor progress, assist in data analysis, provided input for scale up implementation, and ultimately communicated the results to other food processors for consideration.


  • 440 new or retained jobs
  • $800,000 in new investment
  • $600,000 in new products

Could your company benefit from assistance with conducting a feasibility study? Connect with your local MEP Center for more information.


The Ohio Manufacturing Extension Partnership is the official representative of the MEP National Network in Ohio. The MEP National Network is a unique public-private partnership that helps small and medium-sized manufacturers generate business results and thrive in today’s technology-driven economy. The MEP National Network comprises the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP), the 51 MEP Centers located in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

About the author

Ohio Manufacturing Extension Partnership

Ohio MEP helps Ohio's small and medium-sized manufacturers to increase sales, create jobs and generate cost savings through technological innovation, workforce training and improved management practices. Small and medium-sized manufacturing companies are critical to Ohio, representing 90% of job growth for high-paying jobs. For every new manufacturing job that is created or retained, three to five supporting jobs are also created.

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