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Amid tumultuous meat market, North Dakota producers take matters into their own hands

Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 4:30 PM CDT
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NEW SALEM, N.D. – There are more than 1.83 million beef cattle in North Dakota. That’s nearly double the number of people!

The industry is a critical part of the state’s agriculture, but ranchers across the state and the country have felt the frustration of what they see as low prices and unfair market practices.

Ranchers like Kyle Shively and those in the cattle industry have felt the forces of consolidation for decades.

“Over the last five to six years, we’ve seen our margin drop to just barely making anything, if we’re making anything, and then packers are having record profits,” said Kyle Shively, a Rugby rancher.

The reason?

More than 80% of the U.S. beef industry is owned by four companies, leaving ranchers penniless.

“We have no leverage to negotiate with packers anymore. We’ve turned into bid takers instead of bid askers,” said Korby Kost, a Carrington cattle feeder.

Some ranchers in the state have banded together to create their own meat processing plant.

“We decided the best way for us to secure our own butcher spots was to well get rid of the middleman and own our own butcher shop,” said Ben Murphy, one of six owners of 6-in-1 Meats Processing Facility near New Salem.

From an idea in 2019 to an actual plant in 2020, they have seen the reward first-hand of cutting out the “middleman.”

“We’ve nearly doubled our company, Dunn Burger’s, sales this year just by having our own facility and getting our guaranteed slots,” said Murphy.

While not happening overnight, more and more locally owned plants are popping up throughout the Midwest.

“I think we need a lot more smaller plants in this industry to kind of give the big four some competition,” said Shively.

Shively added that it’s more important than ever to support local ranchers and to buy beef directly from the source, not a chain.

This comes as ranchers in Nebraska raised more than $300 million to construct their own beef processing plant this year near North Platte, Nebraska, with an expected construction date this fall.

If you wish to place an order, you can look up the 6-in-1 Meats Facebook page, or email them at: office@6in1meats.com, or call (701) 843-8723.

Copyright 2021 KFYR. All rights reserved.