As processing prices spike, some ranchers build their own plants as a workaround

Industry-wide increases push farmers to vertically integrate.
Image
A cow
A cow
(Tony C French/Getty)

Some cattle farmers frustrated with rising costs in processing are turning to a novel solution: Building their own processing plants.

The push for smaller plants comes more than a year after the meat processing industry was rocked by widespread closures at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, with that chaos at times threatening the stability of the U.S. food supply. 

The vast majority of meat processing in the U.S. takes place at around two dozen facilities controlled by just a small handful of mega-corporations. 

Critics have argued that that sort of consolidation is inherently risky, especially in light of last year’s closures, as well as a cyberattack last year that briefly shut down a major plant. 

The smaller facilities, being developed in a number of midwest states, “will test whether it’s really possible to compete financially against an industry trend that has swept through American agriculture and that played a role in meat shortages during the coronavirus pandemic,” the Associated Press noted this week