Megan Stark, left, with her husband, Trevor, and son, Wyatt. They’re trying to bring a meatpacking plant to Rexburg. | Taken from their website
REXBURG – A local couple is leading an effort to try and get a meatpacking plant in Rexburg.
Megan and Trevor Stark run 50-head of Angus and Angus Cross beef on the Triangle S Ranch in Rexburg and sell prime and choice grade beef to consumers. They are looking into the possibilities of opening a processing plant to keep up with the increased demand for meat production.
There aren’t any specifics yet on where or when the project is happening because it’s still in the early planning stages. Megan tells EastIdahoNews.com they started working with the University of Idaho last week for a feasibility study, which is necessary to determine how big the need is and what needs to happen to meet U.S. Department of Agriculture standards.
“If they’re going to invest in an inspector, they need to make sure there’s enough business here (to justify it),” Megan says.
The feasibility study is an ongoing effort that could take several months to complete. Megan is hoping to see the project move forward once all the details have been fleshed out.
One of the initial hurdles holding it up is that the USDA is “trying to play catch up.”
“There are some pretty good-sized processing facilities that are going in right now in Idaho, two in Idaho Falls (one of which is nearing completion on Iona Road), a couple down in southern Idaho/Boise,” says Megan. “The USDA is focusing on those big plants right now until they get up and going.”
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Megan and her husband have kicked around the idea of opening a processing plant for their own livestock for several years. Current trends in the Ag industry caused them to look beyond their own desires and find a community-wide solution.
“One of the bigger processors here is no longer — they sold out and that was Jones Meat & Foodservices Inc. in Rigby,” she says. “Other ranchers are struggling (with the same issue). The USDA inspected plants that are here are so backed up that they won’t take (any new customers) … and that’s not their fault.”
The Starks have had to schedule butcher dates up to two years in advance just to secure a spot at a local shop.
Feeding cows at the Triangle S Ranch. | Courtesy Megan Stark
Post-pandemic beef market trends
Keeping grocery store shelves fully stocked with beef has been an ongoing struggle since the onset of the pandemic. Processing plants nationwide were shut down in 2020, which significantly slowed down production and resulted in many animals being euthanized or given away instead of being harvested.
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Consolidations in the industry over the last 20 years further complicated the issue. Production plants are now having a hard time keeping up with orders, leading to price increases.
“Our costs have gone up 30% just for feed and fuel over the last year,” Megan says. “The situation right now for meat processing is tricky. Being backed up … is great for our meat processors. COVID woke everybody up and helped them realize the industry is controlled by a select few. People are starting to take control … over their own animals and their own market.”
After speaking with other farmers in the area, Megan says there’s a lot of interest in getting a meatpacking plant. She’s hoping to see some progress on the project soon and she’s asking for your input.
If you raise livestock and would like to weigh in, click here to take a survey. It will be active through March 4.
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