During the past few months, the price that producers receive for their beef has plunged, while the price of beef, for the consumer, has skyrocketed to a 20-year high, according to reports from Wyoming and other livestock producing states like South Dakota. In early March, producers were getting $115 per hundred-weight, or $1.15 a pound, but by late June, they were getting $95.
Bob Montross, founding member and past president of Kingsbury County Cattleman’s Association, said he has seen the cattle market plunge and recover before but does not know or understand why it has plunged at this time. He is closely watching the investigation by the Department of Justice of the major packing plants and possible price gouging.
Montross said he has seen tough times before, and his advice to the other cattlemen is that they will come through the storm and that it is important to live within their means. He also added he is interested in seeing what will happen to the new, small packing plants that are opening up, such as the ones in Fort Pierre and Huron. They will not be able to compete with the large packers, who currently process thousands of head of livestock per day, while these small businesses only process 50 to 200 head a day. He believes they may create a niche in the market, and he wishes them well.
Curt Eichacker, vice-president and agriculture lender at American Bank and Trust in De Smet, said one problem that producers are facing is that the price they receive for their animals is less than the cost to produce them, causing them to work at a loss. Some government programs are available for farmers to aid them, however, such as the Small Business Association, Farm Service Agency and United States Department of Agriculture Some producers are also able to apply for forgiveness loans.
A Hutterite Colony near Carpenter relates that the pork producers are not able to sell all of their finished pork at the plants in Sioux Falls, so they have had to look to other markets. Some colonies are butchering and producing pork for private sale, while others have been shipping their hogs to whatever processing plant is available. Hogs have been shipped to Nebraska, California and Oregon. Added to the difficulty of finding a processing plant is the price, which has plunged from 60 to 70 cents a pound to 20 cents a pound live weight.
Country Butcher Shop in Iroquois is so busy processing beef, they are now booked until April of 2021. According to Casey Decker, their business has increased five times since the market plunge. They no longer process pork, but have also been purchasing boxed beef, which they process and sell as hamburger. Customers need to call ahead to set up an appointment for purchasing the meat. Dennis Decker said they are not allowing customers to come into the shop at this time, because of COVID-19 concerns, but they will get customers’ orders ready when they call and bring it out to their vehicles. Dennis said they sell beef to customers from all over the country, and the Country Butcher Shop is inspected monthly by the Department of Health.
Luke Hiebert and Jeremy Smith of rural Yale and Iroquois saw a need for butchering for consumers who purchase the finished animals from local producers, so they have been butchering chickens, pork and beef for those interested. Presently, they are working on their certification.
Michael Fast of Dakota Signature Meats in Yale reports that their business has increased since the plunge in the market. They sell beef, pork and lamb that is processed in a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspected plant in Elkton. Fast also reports on the disparity in the cost to produce and the price that the producer receives. Dakota Signature Meats sells both to local customers and online, with online sales coming from both bordering states and as far away as Texas. They have not increased their prices during this time, as their goal is to provide the customer with a good product at a fair price.