If you’ve been to the grocery store, a local butcher or a restaurant lately, you’ve seen food prices rising. Food costs are generally up, and over the past couple years, the price of meat in particular has been especially volatile.
Before you walk straight into the weeds, let’s just say this. There are so many factors contributing to food prices rising, and we aren’t going to go into all of them here. We are going to narrow the conversation to meat, though, and even more so, to beef.
Soon to break ground in North Platte, Nebraska, Sustainable Beef is a new, co-op hybrid, beef processing plant. It will be majority owned by cattle ranchers, who will also process a portion of their cattle through it. Walmart recently acquired a minority stake in the venture (CNBC), which sets up a reliable set of customers for its beef (The Wall Street Journal).
We caught up with Sustainable Beef CEO David Briggs on the events leading up to the formation of the company and the impact it will make.
What were the top factors that led Nebraska beef farmers to organize and plan toward opening a new processing plant?
We wanted the ability to control when cattle are processed. They must be harvested when ready. Our co-op hybrid model allows the owners of the cattle to process them at the facility they own and share in the profits.
How many head of cattle will Sustainable Beef process per day?
We will process 1,500 head of cattle per day.
Will the plant process meat other than beef?
Why North Platte?
North Platte is perfectly positioned in cattle country. There are high-quality cow herds in the Sandhills and numerous feedlots close to North Platte. We’ll be on Interstate 80 in the center of the lower 48, which is also a huge benefit.
Describe the business relationship that you and other cattle producers currently have with the “big four” beef processors. How will Sustainable Beef improve on that experience?
All of our feedlots currently sell to the big four and will continue to sell to them in the future. Sustainable Beef will most likely handle 25 to 50 percent of a feedlot’s cattle per year. Our entry into the market provides good risk management for all parties involved.
What benefits does the Sustainable Beef model offer to the end consumer?
The main benefit is consistently high-quality beef that they can purchase at their local Walmart.
How will the plant itself be environmentally sustainable?
We will have the most current technology in the plant and will work intimately with our cattle supply to confirm we are consistently raising our animals and crops in a sustainable manner.
We’ll be watching as plant construction begins and Sustainable Beef gets up and running. This company’s story is proof that the Heartland of America is still the frontier of big ideas, just as it always has been.