Ron Frederick knew something was amiss when he visited the Northern Beef Packers plant in Aberdeen, South Dakota, this summer.
Even though the $110 million facility opened last fall, plant employees weren’t slaughtering cattle when Frederick, the South Dakota Beef Industry Council executive director, toured the plant in late June.
“They processed cattle the day before we got there and the day we got there they didn’t. I knew something wasn’t right. A plant like that you’ve got to be running the cattle through it (every day).”
Frederick’s instincts were correct because the owners of Northern Beef Packers, a plant with a capacity of 1,500 head per day, filed for bankruptcy in late July.
Shortly after entering bankruptcy protection, the company laid off its remaining 260 workers and ceased operations.
Now that the plant is shuttered, South Dakota beef industry representatives and analysts expect a major meat packer to step in and buy the plant.
“It’s a state of the art facility. That plant will not sit idle long. Somebody will buy that plant,” Frederick said.
Matthew Diersen, South Dakota State agricultural economics professor, agreed it makes economic sense for a multinational meat packer to take over.
“It should be attractive to a buyer, if the price is right,” he said from his office in Brookings, S.D. “(Do) one of the larger packers want this facility? Could they use this facility? Probably.”
If one of the ‘Big Four’ meat processors, JBS, Cargill, Tyson or National Beef, purchases Northern Beef Packers, it would become the nearest beef plant for cattle producers in Manitoba and southeastern Sask-atchewan.
Aberdeen is about 550 kilometres from the U.S.-Canada border, directly south of Portage la Prairie, Man.