Many pieces in place for DemKota beef plant

Farm Forum

Though DemKota Ranch Beef officials are staying quiet, indicators such as plant permits, job openings and cattle procurement give an idea of the plant’s operation.

Bryan Prins, who ranches near Sisseton, has been a livestock buyer since 1987. He assists DemKota by procuring cattle in the area.

While buying is heavily dictated by logistics, “We try to buy as locally as we can,” Prins said. “Although there really isn’t a circle, you can almost say we draw a circle around Aberdeen.”

So far, Prins said, most of DemKota’s cattle have been purchased from area ranchers in South Dakota, although a few have been bought in North Dakota.

“What DemKota is doing is killing lean cows, fed cows, and fat cows — so all three classes of cows. And that mix will vary from week to week on how many we need,” Prins said.

He speaks highly of DemKota administrators and believes in the plant’s capabilities.

“Every time something pops up, two and two always makes four. Everything makes sense,” he said.

That leads Prins to believe that DemKota will be successful.

“They are absolutely professional. I really, really enjoy working with them,” he said.

Last month, DemKota representatives gave an update to the Brown County Commission.

“We process and kill eight hours of a day,” DemKota employee Dan DeHaan told commissioners April 5.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service also said the facility is slaughtering and processing beef daily.

According to past reports, the 420,000-square-foot facility will be capable of processing 1,500 head of cattle per day at full capacity. That means even if the plant were operating 24 hours a day, it would need to process one cow every roughly 57 seconds to hit 1,500 head.

DemKota CEO Doug Cooper said previously that the plant wouldn’t reach half capacity until well into 2016.

In October, DemKota announced it would enter a niche market, using religious protocols to produce kosher and halal beef. Under the guidelines, processed kosher meat has to be boxed raw before leaving the plant.

Cooper said then it is much like a natural beef program, and those at the plant believe the process will be seamless.

The plant is hiring. There are more than 60 DemKota positions listed on the South Dakota Department of Labor website, including 50 meat production workers, five for coolers, three for general maintenance mechanics and five in the shipping department.

Most recently, DemKota received special permission to use treated wastewater from a holding cell for irrigation, so the beef packing plant can free up emergency holding space.

The only permit required by the city was approved in November, according to City Manager Lynn Lander.

Anything that needed to be approved city zoning and planning is fully permitted, according to Brett Bill, planning and zoning director.

According to the Food Safety and Inspection Service, DemKota’s inaugural grant of inspection date was Jan. 13.

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