A proposed $325-million dollar rancher-owned beef processing plant in North Platte has picked up a huge partner – Walmart.
The retail giant announced Wednesday it had agreed to take a minority stake in the Sustainable Beef LLC project, an arrangement that also gives it representation on the North Platte company’s board of directors.
Sustainable Beef CEO David Briggs says the agreement with Walmart wraps up the financing for the project and opens the way for construction to start in the next few weeks. The plant is scheduled to open in late 2024 with about 800 employees.
Briggs says that in the search for investors, Sustainable Beef found that it shared many of the same goals and beliefs as Walmart in the care and handling of animals and crops.
Walmart senior vice president of merchandising Tyler Lehr says the retailer is “dedicated to providing high-quality, affordable beef to our customers, and an investment in Sustainable Beef will give us even more access to these products.”
Planning for the North Platte facility began two years ago as cattle producers struggled during the pandemic when existing processing plants closed or sharply reduced production. All the major meat plants in the country are owned by a handful of multinational corporations.
Briggs says Sustainable Beef was born out of the belief that by owning the processing facility themselve, ranchers and feedlot operators would have more control over all aspects of processing including prices and accessibility to processing.
The North Platte plant proposal got a big boost from the Nebraska Legislature this spring when lawmakers allocated $20 million of the state’s $1 billion dollars in COVID stimulus funds for wastewater treatment at qualifying meat processing facilities.