Slaughter plant proposed for Walsh or Pembina Co.
Seven member steering committee appointed
COUNTY – The Red River Regional Council (RRRC) is actively working to study the possibility of bringing a slaughter plant to Crystal or some other location in our region.
In response to the desire for a retail outlet for fresh meat and a slaughter plant in close proximity to beef producers in Walsh and Pembina counties, the Red River Regional Council got involved recently to research the feasibility of such an endeavor.
According to Julius Wangler, Executive Director of the RRRC in Grafton, consumers in Cavalier were looking for a business to buy fresh meat. There was also interest in the Crystal area for a slaughter plant for local beef producers in the area to process their animals. Those needs coupled with the closing of a slaughter plant in Hallock, Minn., making the need a little more pressing. There are currently two such facilities in the region, one in Langdon and a smaller one in Edinburg.
Wangler said while he was hearing about those needs he became aware of a slaughter plant in Bowdon that was moving forward with assistance from the Ag Products Utilization Commission which was formed by Gov. George Sinner.
A meeting was held in December in Crystal to look at the feasibility study for the Bowdon plant and to formulate ideas for a possible slaughter facility in Walsh or Pembina County. Wangler said approximately 20 people showed up for the meeting.
A seven-member steering committee was formed and will be meeting monthly.
“The steering committee is going to be the group I will be working with to develop this project,” Wangler said.
According to Wangler, the Bowdon group has raised the money for startup and will start construction on their facility this spring. He said the local steering committee hopes to visit the Bowden facility when it’s under construction this spring.
The function of the steering committee will be to decide every facet of the project including the size and location of the plant, which engineer to hire, how to raise the money and what the ownership structure will look like.
Wangler said a key to the success of the project will be to determine what the market is for such a plant.
“In other words, what type of plant should we put up,” he said. “Should it be just custom, meaning a place for producers to slaughter their animals, should the plant do any selling of product at all, will their be retail sales or wholesale also.”
Wangler said a model form needs to be developed that can be presented to stores, restaurants and other places that would purchase and consume meat. A great selling point would be that the product would be locally raised.
“Wouldn’t it be great if we could have access to meat that is locally grown, you would know exactly which farmer raised it and what it was fed,” he said.
Wangler said there is the possibility of bringing a local feedlot into the picture where animals would be finished to assure a uniform product.
There is also the possibility that the plant could be a multi-species slaughter plant that would also process deer and elk meat.
“These are all just concepts, and that is what the steering committee is going to have to investigate,” he said.
According to Wangler, since the meeting in December, the project has drawn attention throughout the region.
“It’s amazing at how positive this process has been so far and what the response has been.”
Wangler said he expects the project would have to have somewhere around 60 to 70 percent equity to avoid high amounts of debt. He said there might be other state or federal funds available to help with the financing end of things. It has yet to be determined whether the facility would be a co-op or funded from a private source.
A survey form will also be developed by the steering committee and distributed to help determine the market and feasibility for the project.
“It’s just at the beginning and it’s going to take a lot of time and work,” Wangler said.
About the RRRC
The RRRC serves the counties, municipalities and people of Grand Forks, Nelson, Walsh and Pembina Counties. The board of directors consists of one mayor, one county commissioner, one soil conservation district supervisor and a representative from the City of Grand Forks, Job Service North Dakota and minority groups.
Funding to meet operating expenses is divided from each of the four counties and certain federal and state agencies. The council also uses a fee for services that are not covered by those contributions.
The services the RRRC is involved in are multi-faceted and include economic development, hazard mitigation, riparian projects and historic preservation.