There are a number of beef processing facilities planning to open or expand in the near future, creating more opportunities for producers and feeders to process their cattle. Pictured here, cattle eating at a feed bunk during a feedlot nutritionist boot camp organized by Kansas State (K-State) University and New Mexico State University. Photo by K-State Research and Extension.

There are a handful of new or expanding beef processing facilities coming online in the near future across the U.S. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for more beef plants, and these additions will help keep the U.S. beef supply chain running smoothly.

New plants

One of the largest plants being proposed is a 300,000-square-foot facility in North Platte, NE. A coalition of ranchers and past Cargill employees are the founders of Sustainable Beef, and their vision is to create a 400,000-head-capacity plant by early 2023. The plant would cost around $200 million and employ around 875 people.

Sustainable Beef plans to break ground this fall. “We’re not looking to take on the Big Four packers,” Sustainable Beef co-organizer Rusty Kemp said, according to the North Platte Telegraph. “But there’s a lot of room to operate between a 5,000-head-a-day plant and your local butcher.”

About 30 percent of the plant’s production would be sold internationally and producers who subscribed their beef for slaughter would also receive profits, based on the modified cooperative model of the plant.

On March 23, the North Platte Planning Commission met to decide whether the site of the proposed facility should be declared blighted and substandard, the first step in the construction process. The commission voted unanimously to pass the plans onto the city council, even after opponents argued the plant could be an environmental hazard and the land could be used for other purposes.

Another plant that producers have been eagerly looking forward to is the Missouri Prime Beef Packers’ plant in Pleasant Hope, MO. Plant production began in January, involving conversion from a pork processor to a facility for both fed and non-fed beef cattle. Construction is expected to take a year and a half, and should be running by spring of 2023

Nextgen Cattle Co. is the leading proponent behind the plant, and Derek Thompson and Stacy Davies are two of the co-owners of the company. Nick Paschkov, who has over 40 years of experience in beef processing, is serving as chief operating officer.

The plant is currently more than 100,000 square feet and will have the capacity to process 500 head per day. Custom processing for niche programs will be available.

“We are not a big plant that is solely focused on the number of head processed per hour,” said Director of Operations Mike Schmeling. “We are flexible. We can respond to market changes, consumer demands, or other unexpected factors like COVID-19 as well as, if not better than, anyone in the industry.”

Those interested in supplying cattle or buying product can visit www.missouriprimebeef.com.

The Cherokee Nation is also set to open its meat processing facility in the coming month. The plant is based near Tahlequah, OK, covers about 15,000 square feet, and will be a custom processing plant. Both citizens of the Cherokee Nation and non-citizens can bring cattle or pigs to the plant. The plant will also be able to process deer and bison. In order to process bison, the structural steel system needs to be at least 20 feet tall.

The plant is expected to cost around $1 million.

Farmstead Butcher Block is another local processing facility coming to Muhlenburg County in Kentucky. The facility will cost about $1.2 million and will be able to process cattle, hogs, lambs, chickens, and deer. The plant is expected to be up and running by this fall.

The plant is being established by Muhlenberg County residents Clifford and Carol Jo Welch. Clifford Welch said in a statement, “We’re looking forward to becoming a source for quality, locally sourced meat as well as providing jobs to the area.”

Expanding plants

Two large facilities have plans to expand in the near future: Central Valley Meat in Hanford, CA; and National Beef in Tama, IA.

Central Valley Meat (which acquired Harris Ranch Beef Holding in 2019) plans to do a two-phase expansion of its processing plant in Hanford. The plant currently processes around 1,500 head per day and wants to increase capacity to 4,500 head per day. The company plans to break ground this summer and finish expansion in the next five years.

The second phase of the expansion would add a 103,000-square-foot processing facility and a 187,000-square-foot freezer. The plant is largely intended to process the cattle of its two beef processing plants, but also an additional 1,500 head from regional beef suppliers.

According to the Business Journal, the expansion is still in the early stages, with an environmental review still in the works.

“The project will be heard by the county planning commission with a public hearing but not any time soon,” County planner Kao Nou Yang told the Business Journal.

National Beef Packing Company in Tama also plans to increase their processing capacity and production at their Iowa Premium plant. The company acquired the plant in 2019 when it had a capacity of 1,100 fed cattle a day. The company’s plan for expansion would increase capacity to 2,500 head per day.

“As fed cattle demand continues to grow, we must look for ways to transform packing capacity within the state. We welcome opportunities to build more shackle space and encourage more competition for Iowa’s fed cattle inventory,” said Matt Deppe, CEO of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, in a statement.

50-14 proposal

In other related news, Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) recently reintroduced their 50-14 legislation to require processing facilities that slaughter over 125,000 head of cattle a year to buy 50 percent of their weekly volume on the spot market. The bill is an attempt to increase competition and transparency among packers and producers.

While the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) commended the measure, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) said the bill is not the solution the industry needs.

“As we have seen in other sectors, a one-size-fits-all government mandate rarely achieves the intended goal,” said NCBA Vice President of Government Affairs Ethan Lane. He added that the organization supports a voluntary approach before looking at a legislative measure.

The proposal closely resembles the legislation introduced earlier this year by Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE), the Cattle Market Transparency Act of 2021. The bills come during a year which will see the renewal of the Livestock Mandatory Reporting Program at the end of September.

“USCA looks forward to working with members of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees to realign the cattle marketplace with its true fundamentals and level the playing field in producer-packer relationships,” said USCA President Brooke Miller. — Anna Miller, WLJ managing editor

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