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New Report Analyzes Wyoming's Beef Industry, Discusses Value-Added Opportunities

Keith Weller
US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service

The Wyoming Business Council has released a new report summarizing the status of the state's beef industry.

The report takes a comprehensive look at ways to add value to different aspects of Wyoming's beef industry. That would include opportunities such as more federally inspected processing plants, creating a market for animal byproducts and building a bigger workforce.

Ron Gullberg, strategic partnerships director at the Wyoming Business Council, said there isn't a market in the state for cattle byproducts or offal. So, producers have to spend money to dispose of the byproducts.

"That right away out of the gate puts them at a $148 per head disadvantage [compared] to say the big processors in bordering states like Colorado and Nebraska because they have so much volume, and they've got that infrastructure built around them that they are actually making money off the offal," he said.

Additionally, many cattle producers have to send their beef across state lines to be processed. Gullberg said that takes away from the value-added opportunities in Wyoming.

"Less than a decade ago in Wyoming, there were no USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture] processing plants," Gullberg said.

Within the past couple of years, a few small processing plants have become federally certified. Now, Gullberg says the state is close to having five small USDA processing plants in the state.

Cattle ranching in the state is growing, but the processing and value-added business side has not kept up, Gullberg said.

"There's a great opportunity if we can get this whole value chain going in Wyoming. It will take time and it'll take a lot of coordinated efforts and some successes and failures. But it's there. We just need to connect the dots," he said.

The report does offer some suggestions to add value to the industry. For instance, Gullberg said building a rendering plant or a freezing system for animal byproducts to be sold later to animal feed production could help out producers.

He also said something like blockchain and other source-verification tools could be valuable for creating branding for Wyoming beef.

Additionally, building a workforce will be critical if the state wants to house such facilities. Gullberg said Central Wyoming College's meat processing degree and the University of Wyoming's Meat Lab will help to train workers who could take on these jobs.

Gullberg said he hopes the report helps stakeholders come together to start working on solutions to support the industry.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Catherine Wheeler, at cwheel11@uwyo.edu.

Catherine Wheeler comes to Wyoming from Kansas City, Missouri. She has worked at public media stations in Missouri and on the Vox podcast "Today, Explained." Catherine graduated from Fort Lewis College with a BA in English. She recently received her master in journalism from the University of Missouri. Catherine enjoys cooking, looming, reading and the outdoors.
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