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The Weekly News Source for Wyoming's Ranchers, Farmers and AgriBusiness Community

Times are Changing

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

One of the major issues for consumers these days is finding a good source of affordable beef, pork or lamb to meet their family’s needs. People have always relied on trips to the grocery store, but as many know, availability and cost have turned some away.

The alternative for most is to buy a finished or processed animal from a producer. We are seeing more producers finishing animals, and consumers are really eating it up. They know the local people who raised the animal, and they know it is the fresh meat they want. The demand is there. 

However, this comes with some negatives, such as the wait on getting it processed at a small processing plant and finding a freezer to store it in at home. The demand for this meat has really exceeded supply.

 There is plenty of meat, but getting it processed is an issue. I don’t think any of us can say this trend will go away. It fits exactly what the consumer wants for their food today. And it is up to those producers to have the facts on the meat to satisfy consumers’ questions.

Producers have a great product and it is easy to stand behind.

The big question is, how do we get small to medium processing plants in the region?

As the Wyoming Business Council’s study of small processing plants showed, it is not going to be easy or cheap. 

A Bloomberg article said, “Small slaughterhouses aren’t a quick fix. There’s plenty of hurdles to opening small slaughterhouses, including location, livestock and labor.” 

There have been some small slaughterhouses opening up and some colleges are training meat cutters to work in those plants, but labor will always be an issue with processing plants.

“To start a plant to process 300 to 400 head of cattle a day, we would need to be able to lose $4 million to get to profitability,” states the article.

 That’s a lot of money. It is going to be hard to compete with the large packers. It is like making cars or any other product, one has to be big to be profitable. They said in 2019, the 12 largest plants accounted for 52 percent of the total cattle slaughter. This tells us small plants will never replace the big ones. 

Last week, according to CattleFax, there were 923,700 head of cattle processed. A year ago, there were 567,700 head of cattle processed. While those numbers are huge, cattle producers are having a hard time staying profitable. Hopefully this will be fixed in the near future. 

There is room for small to medium processing plants, but it is going to be expensive. The consumer is willing to pay more for their meat, and the producers will have to supply a year-round, quality product. 

We can do it, but it means change and extra work. If there is money to be made, producers will adapt. Younger producers are viewing this time as an opportunity. The good part is America still wants to eat meat, especially hamburger, and we can supply those products.

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