The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted a problem that already existed in Wyoming—a lack of USDA meat processing facilities compared to the number of animals that need to be processed.
Producers need their meat to be USDA certified in order to sell across state lines and to grocery stores and restaurants. The narrowing bottleneck has put many in a financial bind.
Forward Cody, Cody's local economic development agency, received a $2.2 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to expand its local meat processing facility, Wyoming Legacy Meats.
Owner Frank Schmidt said the new facility will be able to process 75 head per day compared to the current rate of 20 to 30 head per week. And they are booked six or seven months in advance.
"I think it's going to help the economy of this region, and the producers have the ability to have added value, '' said Schmidt. "Anything we can do to help the agricultural community is going to be a positive thing."
Schmidt said demand for local meat processing is high. He said it allows producers to better control their own products and will give smaller producers better options. That's because most big plants don't have the capabilities to stop processing for a small number of cattle that need to be processed in a certain way.
"This is gonna fill up a void," said Schmidt. "It's gonna allow ranchers and any type of meat producers to have an alternative way of getting their product out there for people."
Construction of the new facility is scheduled to start in the spring.