A proposed 8,000-head-per-day beef processing facility in South Dakota is joining a packed roster of planned and existing plants that could be forced to compete for shrinking cattle inventories in the years ahead.
The Biden administration is set to direct millions of dollars toward boosting the diversification of the nation’s meat processing capacity, but facilities planning on processing cattle could be timing their entry into the market at a difficult time.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is promising to pour $500 million into expanding meat processing capacity, which farm groups say will be a great start toward increasing competition in the sector and boosting livestock prices.
A survey of more than 3,000 American consumers shows beef is currently chosen about three times more often than plant-based alternatives. But while the plant-based presence in the market remains small, it is growing.
Since COVID-19 disrupted the meat supply chain in the spring, there has been a growing consensus between Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill that the meat processing industry needs more competition, but that comes with a few barriers.
Shutting down, slowing processing line speeds, and reducing work hours is becoming a reality for livestock processors as more workers contract COVID-19, and ag economists argue timing of closures in the coming weeks is everything.