The announcement earlier today that Greeley, Colo.-based JBS Swift hopes to earn $2 billion in a public stock offering demonstrates the company’s plans to expand its U.S. operations and move toward increased production of case-ready meat cuts. The IPO filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission would be the largest currently under consideration, and the largest U.S. IPO since credit card operator Visa's $19 billion IPO in March 2008, according to an article in today’s Greeley Tribune. So for this year, 11 IPOs in the United States, excluding those of real estate investment trusts, have raised $2.2 billion, according to a Reuters report.

The prospectus JBS has filed with the SEC suggests plans to expand into more case-ready distribution of meat directly to retailers. “We intend to use a portion of our net proceeds from this offering to selectively pursue additional value-enhancing growth opportunities as they arise,” the document reads. “For example, during the next five years, we intend to make substantial investments in order to significantly expand our direct distribution network.”

Earlier this year, JBS abandoned efforts to purchase National Beef Co. amid resistance from the U.S. Justice Department. News reports note that National Beef has facilities for producing case-ready cuts.

JBS Swift has its own transport division, JBS Carriers, and industry sources note that the company has been expanding that division and is in the process of building one of the largest trucking fleets in the United States.

“Case-ready distribution is a growing trend in beef marketing,” says Randy Irion, director of channel marketing for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, as it offers several advantages to packers and retailers. Most retailers, Irion says, probably will not shift entirely to case-ready meats, as some customers prefer in-store cutting services. But for much of their inventory, case-ready gives the retailer more control of which cuts it stocks at any given time. Meat-department managers can re-stock quick-selling items as needed with case-ready products, whether or not a meat cutter is on duty.

Irion says case-ready packaging also provides more shelf life. A large percentage of ground beef in retail cases arrives in case-ready packaging, but retailers cut and package most whole-muscle products themselves.

Case-ready also allows the retailer to selectively stock individual cuts based on demand trends among their specific customers, rather than fabricating retail cuts from entire primals, which requires them to stock less popular cuts along with the ones that sell quickly. Case-ready distribution allows the retailer to chose which individual cuts to stock, and potentially allows the packer to sell more product as demand for individual cuts can vary considerably between regions, towns and individual supermarkets. More targeted distribution and stocking of retail cuts potentially allows stores and packers to move more product, Irion says, making case-ready packaging a positive trend for the beef industry overall.

The apparent plans for JBS to expand into more case-ready distribution, Irion says, suggests their existing and potential retail customers are asking for more individually packaged, case-ready products.

The company’s retail beef brands currently include Swift, Swift Premium, Swift Angus Select, Swift Premium Black Angus, Miller Blue Ribbon Beef and G.F. Swift 1855.

JBS Swift is the U.S. division of Brazil-based JBS SA, which became the world’s largest beef-packing company when it purchased Swift & Company in July, 2007. The company has worked aggressively to expand it’s U.S. and global operations since then, purchasing Smithfield Food’s beef business and Five Rivers Cattle Feeding, the largest feeding operation in the United States.

Click here to read the full text of JBS Swift’s filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.