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US: Meatpacking venture eyes Union County

8/4/11 www.argusleader.com

Written by Kelly Thurman

Plant would produce beef that meets Jewish, Muslim dietary rules

Rural Union County is one of several locations being considered as a possible site for a meatpacking plant that would produce kosher and halal beef.

First American Farms is considering several locations for the plant including one along the Interstate 29 corridor south of Beresford, Thomas Lindholm, its chief financial officer, said Thursday from the Fort Worth, Texas, area.

The company, which is a registered LLC in South Dakota, would need 200 to 300 acres of land and is considering several sites, including others in South Dakota, he said.

“Nothing has been finalized,” Lindholm said. “We’re very early in the process.”

The project would include a ritualistic kill plant that would meet Jewish kosher and Muslim halal dietary rules. Its products would be for export and domestic distribution. Lindholm could not confirm how many people the plant would employ.

Lindholm said the availability of land, an aquifer, a labor force and access to premium cattle all are reasons the Beresford area is being considered.

The plant would fill a hole left by decreased production in the kosher industry, Lindholm said.

“We saw the margins move in our favor and we feel now is the time to build,” he said.

Agriprocessors, a kosher plant in Postville, Iowa, was the site of a May 2008 immigration raid that led to the arrest of 389 immigrant workers. The company’s former vice president, Sholom Rubashkin, eventually was convicted of fraud. The company later was purchased by Agri Star Meat and Poultry, which is working to ramp up production again.

Lindholm said his company would move forward in pursuing zoning changes and other permits and approvals it would need once it settles on a site.

Many in Union County, which also is the location for the proposed Hyperion oil refinery just west of Elk Point, say many questions remain unanswered about the project.

Union County Commission Chairman Doyle Karpen said he recently had a meeting with one company official but added that the company hasn’t filed anything with the county yet. Until paperwork is filed, it’s hard to speculate on the project, he said.

“After Hyperion, I just wait until I see dried ink on a sheet of paper,” he said.

Allen Andrews, who owns land south of Beresford, said the proposed plant has been a point of discussion in the area recently, but he doesn’t have enough information to form an opinion yet.

“I don’t know much about it,” he said. “I’d like to find out more details. … As of right now, it’s just stories floating around.”

Reach Kelly Thurman at 331-2322.

 

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