Photo by Brett Nachtigall/Fall River County Herald-Star
Framed in the foreground by three American flags mounted on the back of a motorcycle parked on the adjacent road, a billboard promoting Dakota Territory Beef is illuminated by the afternoon sun during a groundbreaking ceremony held last Wednesday, May 25, at 28005 Angostura Road which will be the future site of a cooperative meat packing plant.
By Brett Nachtigall
HOT SPRINGS – Nearly two years after the idea was first publicly discussed at a meeting in the Mueller Civic Center on July 8, 2020, ground was finally broke last week on a 19,000 square foot meat packing facility, located just down the road from Fall River Feedyard near Hot Springs.
The United Ranchers Co-op, led by President Neil Sanders, along with fellow board members Dustin Luper and Julie Ellingson, hosted the event on Wednesday, May 25, which was attended by a few dozen people, including U.S. Congressman Dusty Johnson, along with District 30 Senator Julie Frye-Mueller, District 30 Representative Trish Ladner, along with members of the Fall River County Commission and some other political candidates, to name a few.
Following the ceremonial groundbreaking by a trio of golden shovels held in the hands of Sanders, Luper and Ellingson in front of a new billboard along Hwy. 385, the three then spoke to the crowd about their excitement for the new facility, which is expected to be completed later this year for a potential opening in early 2023.
Sanders said the building will be constructed by Hot Springs builder Rod Watts, and his company High Country Erectors. The plans are based on another meat packing facility located south of Kansas City, which Sanders and Watts toured last year. After the groundwork for the building is finished this summer, the materials for the structure will arrive in September.
Located at 28005 Angostura Road, the site is a total of 11 acres and will ultimately be home to a 25-kill per week plant, which will employ seven people with salaries ranging from $34,000 per year for the entry level position, to up to $65,000 per year for the manager, with a mid-range of $42,000 to $48,000, Sanders said.
The end-product will have a label known as Dakota Territory Beef and be marketed to a wide-range of retail outlets, which will fall under Ellingson’s expertise, who grew up in the beef industry, had a career working with restaurant owners and now also owns and operates the Chute Rooster steakhouse in Hill City.
Based on her experience working with chefs in various markets from the east coast to the west coast, Ellingson said, “people are becoming so much more aware of where their food comes from … the more affluent areas, the more excited they are about knowing that their food comes from somebody who wears a cowboy hat, rides a horse and has a dog along his side. That’s what we’re selling; this American western dream.”
Sanders said their company has made available 50 shares in the company, each for a cost of $25,000 which includes the shareholder’s right and obligation to have 25 head of cattle per share butchered at the plant. Sanders and Luper said the plant will be operating 50 weeks per year, to allow for employees to have time away and with their families. Currently, 13 of the 50 shares have been sold, with 37 still available. Based on their bylaws, no shareholder can own more than five shares.
When asked about where they will be finding their employees, Sanders said they currently have “dibs” on three individuals coming through a newly-formed meat cutting program at Western Dakota Tech. He said there is also a new program at South Dakota State University where they will be looking to recruit as well, with the goal of hiring South Dakota employees.
“America needs this,” stated Congressman Johnson, when he took the stage towards the end of the presentation. He then spoke about legislation which will help create grant projects similar to what United Rancher Co-op is attempting to do. He then closed by complimenting Sanders, Luper and Ellingson for having the vision to bring change to the landscape of the beef market.