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South Dakota beef plant now in action

December 04, 2012
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ABERDEEN, S.D. -- Production at the new Northern Beef Packers beef processing plant in Aberdeen, S.D., is gradually gathering pace and the company aims to be processing some 1,500 cows per day next year, Northern Beef Packers'' marketing and public relations director Laure Swanson has announced.

Plans for the plant, which was formally opened in October, started in 2006 but its launch had been delayed several times because of change in ownership, floods and severe weather conditions, all of which played a part in delaying construction. The facility is the first complete beef processing plant to be built in the United States in more than three decades. The $109-million facility will be beneficial not just for investors but also for the whole region, Swanson said.

Speaking at 64th annual convention of the South Dakota Cattlemen''s Association, she revealed that when it starts working at its full capacity in about six or seven months, the plant will be able to process 240 head of cattle per hour. The entire process from slaughtering the animal to the point where the meat is stored in what is called a "hot box" takes just 35 minutes. The facility is not short of supply, Swanson said, as there are 350,000 cattle within 150 miles of the plant.

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According to data from Northern Beef Packers, some 3.8 million beef cows and calves are raised in South Dakota. The plant accepts cattle that are not older than 30 months and if they are raised in the state they will be transported over a shorter distance, which will reduce their stress level. These two factors significantly contribute to better quality of the beef, Swanson explained.

The 420,000 square foot facility currently employs 330 people but the workforce will nearly double once the plant is at full capacity. However, according to Swanson, workers are hard to find and the company has had to go out of the area looking for staff, because South Dakota has a relatively low unemployment rate. In addition, finding people with the necessary skills in the area was difficult because the nearest plants were in Nebraska, over 300 miles away from the facility. According to Swanson, the line at the Northern Beef Packers plant will move at a slower rate than other plants to ensure nothing short of high-quality product is produced.

Production will be shipped globally, but about two-thirds of the meat will be sold to a company based in Austin, Texas. Part of it will reach the South Korean market, while the rest will end up in homes and restaurants across the world. Trade relations with South Korea are linked to the main investor in the plant - Oshik Song, a South Korean businessman who owns 41 percent of Northern Beef Packers.

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