Rep. Johnson and USDA Under Secretary Torres Small tour Wall Meat
Wed, 03/22/2023 - 12:03pm admin
Nathan Thompson with permission from Rapid City Journal
U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., and USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Xochitl Torres Small received an in-person look Friday at the operations of Wall Meat Processing, a company that is growing thanks in part to a $3.3 million federal grant.
The grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will help the co-owners of Wall Meat and their subsidiary, I-90 Meats, to build a new 30,000-square-foot processing plant in New Underwood.
Ken Charfauros, co-owner of Wall Meat, said the demand for locally sourced beef, pork, lamb and bison has caused the original 2,400-square-foot processing plant in Wall to exceed capacity. Once built, the New Underwood facility will increase production by 4,000 head annually.
"We have something in Wall that is 56 years old, the infrastructure is old and the square footage is small," Charfauros said. "We opened up a Rapid City fabrication, or cutting facility, with a regular retail store that's larger than our facility here... When we open up the 30,000-square-feet facility in New Underwood, that will increase the capacity of Wall Meat."
Johnson said the investment from the grant was a total bipartisan agreement, which is rare in Washington, D.C.
"We seemingly fight about everything in this country, unfortunately, along partisan lines, but this issue about investing in the supply chain is not a partisan issue," Johnson said. "When you look at the kind of investments this administration has been willing to make, these are investments that are being heralded from all parts of the political spectrum. That's one more thing to celebrate today."
Torres Small said she was particularly impressed with Wall Meat's plan for the future, calling it a "really well-run machine." She said the limited space at the processing plant in Wall was all the more reason why the USDA is supporting the venture.
"I saw the limitations in terms of the size of this facility and the desire to expand to serve more producers and to provide more for customers," Torres Small said. "They're doing it with everything they can, but the new equipment is going to allow things to go faster and safer. We're proud to invest in not only the work that's done here, but also the hard working employees here."
Torres Small said the investment in a South Dakota small processor is indicative of the need for rural growth and a stronger supply chain for quality meats across the country.
"When you invest in this part of supply chain, you're investing in hardworking producers and ranchers. We're working hard to make sure everyone in the country has the protein they need — everyone all across [this country] and around the world," she said. "Also, you're investing in customers, folks who care about the quality of their meat, folks who need affordable food, and folks who want to reinvest in local opportunity."
Charfauros said the vision he has will benefit not only customers, but the hard-working producers as well. He said his business model is all about taking care of the community.
"When you start to talk to them [the producers], or when they come to your counter and they start filling out the paperwork — you can see the dust in their eyes, the wear in their faces, of what they've gone through," he said. "To get that one protein to us and then to our consumers — how can you not do the best you can for them? I don't know how else, but that is our community involvement with our producers."