Western Legacy Development Corp

The Meatgistics Podcast recently had the chance to sit down with the CEO of a new planned 8,000 head a day processing plant in South Dakota. What makes this even more interesting is that Western Legacy Development Corporation is not associated with "the big 4" in anyway. The big 4 companies in meat processing are Tyson, JBS, Cargill and National Beef, and they currently own about 85% of the market. The plant is being funded by Kingsburry and Associates and would make it the single largest beef and bison processing plant in North America. So, it looks like we will have a new player in the industry, stepping in at a very high level.  

Cattle in a feed lot

The Meatgistics Podcast recently had the chance to sit down with Curtis Harper, the CEO of a new planned 8,000 head a day processing plant in South Dakota. What makes this even more interesting is that Western Legacy Development Corporation is not associated with "the big 4" in anyway. The big 4 companies in meat processing are Tyson, JBS, Cargill and National Beef, and they currently own about 85% of the market. The plant is being funded by Kingsbury and Associates and would make it the single largest beef and bison processing plant in North America. So, it looks like we will have a new player in the industry, stepping in at a very high level.  

For the full episode check out our Meatgistics Podcast Post or listen to the episode from September 5th on your player of choice. Below is a selection of some of our conversation with Curtis. Note, Megan Kingsbury was supposed to join us as well, but due to technical diffilculties with the software we use for remote guests she was unable to join in. She attempted 2-3 different devices and the link refused to work, we believe this problem was on our end, not hers. Read below for a few excerpts from the conversation.  

Jon - Can you talk a little bit about what went into this decision? (To open such a large processing plant)

Curtis Harper - Megan and I have been good friends for many years, she used to live out on the East coast, she decided to move back to Rapid City where she is from. We opened a real estate and commercial development business together. She started to explain to me the plight of the ranchers. And in her words, I am a 5th generation rancher, and I dont know if there is going to be a 6th generation. The margins have gotten so squeezed that she doesn't know if there is a future there. So we started talking over a couple of months and said "why don't we do something about it". Megan has strong skills in finance and construction and I have spent a lot of my career running large manufacturing companies. We said, lets do this thing, and there is no way to do it and make an impact and be a boutique shop.

Jon - Yes, well you definitely didn't go boutique.

Curtis - No, no we did not go boutique, I think that is fair to say! (laughing)

Jon - 8,000 head of cattle a day, I don't think it gets through how big that is, it is a huge thing...a lot of people would dip their toes in, you guys dove to the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

Curtis - That is correct

Austin - We are a supplier in the meat processing industry but our average customer is a lot smaller than you guys are.

Curtis Harper - We cannot have the impact we want to have by being small. To have an impact on the industry of this size we have to have a large footprint.

Jon - How many people are you looking at hiring? I have seen a few different numbers out there.

Curtis - We are looking at 2,500 people in the plant and a number of support people as well. But we will have a lot of people.

Austin - What do you guys currently have. Are you still conceptual or have you been building out your team?

Curtis - We have been building out our team, everything from drawing, engineering studies, working with municipalities on permitting and those kinds of things. We have a very good core that we will be building out as we go forward.

Jon - Hogs are a big thing where you are in North Carolina, with hogs you have a lot of uniformity. With Beef you have more variation, getting 8,000 head a day, is there any advantages you guys have that you feel you will be able to do that better through plant design or something else?

Curtis - Yes. We are very fortunate in that basically we have a blank sheet of paper. So we don't have to live by old paradigms other than obviously the safety of our employees and the consumer is paramount and you have to take those things into account as you build a facility. But we can rethink and are rethinking and have found some very innovative partners to help us do things differently. Even things like how we are going to take care of our team members, how the facility will look, and what lighting we will use to make the facility better.  

20th Sep 2022 Jon Tremblay

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