SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A public debate over slaughterhouses in Sioux Falls continues this week when the city council will hear the submission of a municipal initiated measure to prohibit construction or permitting of new slaughterhouses within city limits. 

The city council has to act on the initiated measure, which reached the 6,089 signature threshold, to give the official language and authorize a special city election held in conjunction with the general election set for Nov. 8. After the city council approves the measure, county auditors in Lincoln and Minnehaha County will have the issue on the ballot for residents of Sioux Falls. 

According to the city attorney’s explanation, “The ordinance does not pertain to any existing slaughterhouse constructed and operating before the effective date of this measure, nor does it apply to the expansion or alteration of any slaughterhouse constructed and operating before the effective date of the measure as long as the expansion or alteration occurs at the existing site.” 

Last week, Wholestone Farms announced plans to start constructing what the company is calling a “custom slaughterhouse.” It’ll be a smaller-scale butcher shop that opens before the original 2025 plans for a brand new $500 million processing plant that could process 3 million hogs annually. 

Luke Minion, CEO of Pipestone Holdings and Chairman of the board for Wholestone Farms, told KELOLAND News the company believes it will have all the proper permits to construct and make the butcher shop operational before the November election. Wholestone Farms announced it bought the land for the processing plant near Benson Road and Interstate 229 in June 2021.   

This year, a group called Smart Growth Sioux Falls started a petition process against the project. The group says it gained more than 10,000 signatures from registered Sioux Falls voters to oppose the Wholestone Farms processing plant and ban all future slaughterhouses from starting inside city limits. 

How many slaughterhouses and butcher shops are there in SD?

According to a database from the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection and Service (FSIS), there are only nine establishments that slaughter livestock and fall directly under federal inspection in South Dakota. The federal list was last updated July 14 and contains long-time Sioux Falls slaughterhouse Smithfield Foods. 

Along with the nine slaughterhouses, there’s 31 establishments that produce meat, poultry, and/or egg products regulated by FSIS. The database cites Grand Prairie Foods, Inc. and Orion Food Systems in Sioux Falls as places that do meat processing and poultry processing. They don’t fall under the “slaughterhouse definition” for the initiated measure.   

Other smaller meat processing facilities and butcher shops are inspected at the state level. States operate under a cooperative agreement with FSIS to enforce requirements “at least equal to” those imposed under the Federal Meat and Poultry Products Inspection Acts and the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act of 1978. 

FSIS’s annual review of South Dakota’s state meat and poultry inspection program met the “at least equal to” standard.  

South Dakota’s Animal Industry Board conducts the state’s MPI program. 

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According to the South Dakota Animal Industry Board, there are an additional 25 inspected establishments under slaughter and 10 are described as processing. There are a total of 57 custom establishments licensed by South Dakota Meat Inspection. SDMI says it also does sanitation inspections to 220 retail meat establishments.  

Meat shops on the rise in SD

In the animal industry board’s 2021 annual report, it says there was an increase in the number of inquiries for opening a meat establishment or selling meat from a farm. 

KELOLAND News recently highlighted a new butcher shop called Borderline Butchering which opened near Rowena in late 2021. Ron Heller reached out to local producers in the area and beef producer Dick Funke contacted Heller about opening a meat shop. 

Funke sold Heller a few acres of land about a mile south of their cattle farm near Rowena and Funke everyone benefits from more local butchers.

“The producer benefits, the butcher shop benefits and the customer benefits from lower prices,” Funke said.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, state and federal grant dollars were made available to assist small meat processors to help expand capacity and increase the availability of processing services. 

This summer, Dakota Territory Beef announced it partnered with United Ranchers Cooperative and aims to process 25 cattle a week. U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) attended the groundbreaking and praised co-op president Neil Sanders, Dustin Luper and Julie Ellingson for taking on the challenge of starting a meat processing facility. 

For Fiscal Year 2021 (July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021), there were 92 inquiries with at least seven of those either opening a new establishment or purchasing an existing business. In 2021, there were 45,233 total head slaughtered between cattle, swine, sheep, goats, bison and elk. 5,515 slaughtered heads were inspected. 

Cattle, hog and other agriculture producers have called for processing capacity, especially in the cattle industry.

In the U.S., 26 major plants process 80-85% of the beef in the USA. Those plants are owned by four main companies — JBS, Tyson, Cargill and National Beef. 

Both President Joe Biden and South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem have called for changes in the beef meatpacking industry.

Megan Kingsbury, the president and partner of Kingsbury and Associates, has announced plans for a $1 billion meatpacking plant with new processing technology to process 8,000 head of cattle a day located in southern Rapid City.

The South Dakota Stockgrowers Association Executive Director told KELOLAND News a brand new facility would directly impact cattle producers in South Dakota and across the country.

Kingsbury has said the Rapid City plant will be in the research and development phase for the rest of 2022.

Elevate Rapid City, the economic development office in Rapid City, told KELOLAND News the organization did not have a comment in reference to this project in early June but concerns have been reported by the Rapid City Journal.