By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Two northeastern Wyoming legislators on Wednesday praised the announcement of a prospective beef processing plant in Rapid City, South Dakota.
Megan Kingsbury, a fifth-generation cattle rancher and consultant, announced that she intends to build the country’s largest beef plant with a capacity of slaughtering 8,000 head of cattle a day, according to Reuters News.
Sens. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, and Jeff Wasserburger, R-Gillette, told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday they thought that a plant of this size would be a game-changer for beef producers in South Dakota and Wyoming.
“Wyoming has around 700,000 head of cattle in the state and I think around 69,000 of those are on feed,” Wasserburger said on Tuesday. “So in just about 10 days, they could process all of our available cows.”
Driskill was excited about the prospect of an independent processor going up against the major companies. He added that the plant would change the value of hay and corn in both South Dakota and Wyoming.
In December, the White House released a report that explicitly stated meat prices are the largest factor to the rising cost of living. This is partly due to just a few large corporations dominating the meat processing market, the report said.
“Just four large conglomerates control approximately 55-85% of the market for pork, beef and poultry, and these middlemen were using their market power to increase prices and underpay farmers, while taking more and more for themselves,” it said.
The four aforementioned companies’ gross profits have collectively increased by more than 120% since before the pandemic and their net income has surged by 500%.
The project is expected to cost $1.1 billion, but is not slated to be operational until at least 2026. Kingsburg told Reuters she expects construction to begin on the plant in 2023 and for the process to take about three years.
She also said the plant will likely employ 2,500 people and use advanced technology seen in Europe and Asia to process beef with less labor.
Driskill and Wasserburger are both somewhat skeptical of the numbers Kingsbury is promising with the plant, but believe that even if it were to process 4,000 head of cattle per day, the market in the western region would absolutely be impacted.
Some of their concerns relate to the record-breaking number of cattle being processed in a day, the cost of the plant and the availability of quality water and feed.
“I’m 1000% supportive of anybody that will do anything in their power to help,” Driskill said.
Kingsbury’s project would slaughter around 1,000 more cattle per day than the current top processor, a Tyson plant in southeastern South Dakota, according to Reuters.
Four major companies, Cargill, Tyson Foods Inc, JBS SA, and National Beef Packing Company, slaughter about 85% of all U.S.-fed cattle, according to Reuters.