Enhancing producer resources to build small meat processing capacity and local meat demand

Final report for ONC21-084

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2021: $39,862.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2023
Grant Recipient: South Dakota State University
Region: North Central
State: South Dakota
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Amanda Blair
South Dakota State University
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Project Information


The COVID-19 pandemic brought to the forefront many challenges the agriculture industry regularly faces. One of the most prominent issues was the marked decline in the ability to process meat caused by the partial or complete shutdown of many large meat processing facilities. Consumers faced a shortage of meat in the grocery stores, and producers dealt with overcrowded facilities when they were required to hold over market-ready livestock. While large packing facilities shutdown, small meat processors were called to work overtime to help local consumers put meat on their tables. Many of these processors were understaffed and overworked prior to the pandemic, and the fast shift to a demand for local meat exacerbated those issues. This pandemic has also caused a shift in consumer preferences, and many more are interested in purchasing directly from local producers and processors. However, there are not enough small processors to meet this need. There is a strong desire by producers to take more control of their marketing options, but few possess the knowledge to operate a meat processing facility. This proposal will aid producers in the upper Midwest navigate the requirements of establishing and operating small processing facilities.

Project Objectives:
  1. Familiarize partners with regulations and requirements of the meat industry
  2. Aid partners with regulatory decisions based on their business goals
  3. Provide technical assistance in processing techniques and skills necessary to operate a small meat processing facility
  4. Educate partners on proper sanitizing and food safety practices
  5. Assist partners in the development of realistic production goals


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Dr. Tammy Anderson (Educator)


Involves research:
Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

5 Consultations
1 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
2 Tours
2 Webinars / talks / presentations
1 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

15 Farmers participated
7 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

A kick-off was held in November, 2021 that outlined the categories of inspection (custom exempt, state, federal, cooperative interstate shipment). This webinar was jointly presented by Dr. Tammy Anderson of the South Dakota Animal Industry Board and Dr. Christina Bakker of South Dakota State University. A total of 15 farmers/ranchers logged in to the webinar including the program partners. This webinar fulfilled the first and second objectives of our project. 

Industry tours were held January 26-28, 2022 and were attended by all program partners and 4 additional individuals. Day 1 of the tours began in Wall, SD where the group toured a state inspected meat processing facility that has been in operation over 50 years and had undergone recent renovations.  This operation encompasses several business ventures including Beef to School, a restaurant, and a separate retail store/fabrication and processing facility. On Day 2 tour participants engaged in a Workshop to expand their understanding of meat processing operations and opportunities.  This workshop included speakers that presented their experiences with planning and building a processing facility, obtaining USDA grants for meat processing, an overview of services provided by the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation, the business model of a multi-state meat processing and distribution plant, and how to determine equipment needs for small processing facilities. The group then travelled to Laramie, WY and on Day 3 they toured a new USDA inspected processing facility and learned from the owner/operator about the intricacies associated with building a brand new facility. These tours and workshop fulfilled objectives 3, 4, and 5 of our project.

A final webinar was held on March 10, 2022 and attended by our program partners. The first presenter was the owner of a USDA inspected mobile meat processing unit who had also just build a permanent processing facility. The second presenter represented a firm that assists those working to build their own meat processing facilities. This webinar fulfilled objectives 2, 3, 4, and 5. 

Learning Outcomes

5 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation

Project Outcomes

2 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
1 Grant received that built upon this project
2 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

This project has benefitted agricultural sustainability in two primary ways. First, 2 of the program partners have moved forward with plans to enter the meat processing sector. One partner recently purchased an existing custom exempt meat processing facility in southern Minnesota and has continued to offer services to the surrounding area. If this partner had not purchased the facility, it is very possible that the previous owners would have shut down the business and the small rural community would have lost their source of locally processed meat. The other partner has moved forward with plans to build a USDA inspected meat processing facility in north central South Dakota. The plant will offer both custom and retail services and aims to process approximately 100 animals per week. This partner has secured a federal grant to help advance and finance their facility. Their current business goal is to have a functioning processing facility by late 2023. These new businesses have the potential to improved market opportunities for producers in the nearby rural communities.  They will also contribute to increased economic activity, and increased employment & labor opportunities for these rural communities, which will help support the economic sustainability of these agricultural communities.  These new processing facilities will also expand the agriculture and food system infrastructure, and improve local food accessibility, which will support the social sustainability of these communities.

The second way this program has benefitted agricultural sustainability is through the compilation of knowledge secured over the course of the project. The suite of information gathered throughout the program is available through the SDSU Extension website to anyone seeking information about the topics covered.


Information Products

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.