A rancher with operations near Mancos and in Arizona has proposed building a small meat-processing facility south of Mancos to bring locally raised beef from pasture to table.
Daniel Mominee said he originally envisioned the facility as meeting the needs of his herd in Mancos.
But as word got around about his proposal, small operators with 10 to 20 head of cattle have expressed interest in using the facility.
“If you want to sell your beef to restaurants or grocery stores, you need a USDA-certified facility, and that’s something that’s lacking in our area,” he said. “For smaller operators, getting scheduled at a USDA facility is difficult. We want to create our own USDA facility.”
Mominee’s plan has received a recommendation for approval by the Montezuma County Planning and Zoning Board, and he wants to open the meat-processing plant in April 2020.
He plans to process about 10 head a week based on the availability of traveling U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors.
The facility would be on his 654-acre ranch on County Road 39 several miles south of Mancos. Eleven building-enclosed holding pens would be attached to the slaughterhouse in a 60-by-60-foot facility on a parcel of about 13 acres.
Ryan Lowe, owner and general manager of The Ore House in Durango, was excited to hear about plans to open a small USDA-approved facility.
“We, like ranchers, have been constrained by a lack of a USDA processing facility in the area,” he said. “We’re bringing in animals less broken down than we’d like and doing butchery in-house. But we don’t have the layout or the staff to do it efficiently.”
Sunnyside Meats, Durango’s single USDA meat-processing facility, he said, is often busy, and adding a regional slaughterhouse would help local restaurants obtain a more-consistent supply of locally raised meats.
“We work with local ranchers, but we run into a wall because they haven’t been able to get scheduled at a facility. I think many restaurants would benefit,” Lowe said.
What’s particularly hard, Lowe said, is divvying up the entire animal once it’s slaughtered, but he said by supplying multiple customers from Durango, Mancos, Cortez and possibly Telluride, the operation might be able to supply him with steaks while more casual restaurants could get ground beef and roasts.
Southwest Colorado, a prime ranching locale, would seemingly be a natural for easy establishment of a local supply of beef and pork, but Lowe said that’s not necessarily the case.
“We have plenty of beef around – that’s obvious – but we don’t know how much ends up being served locally. I’m not saying anything against Sunnyside. We use them, but they are so busy,” he said.
An added meat-processing facility, he added, should aid locals running cattle.
“Local ranches and farms need support from a sustainability standpoint, and having local restaurants working with them is an important part of that,” he said.
Chris Bissonnette, kitchen manager at Steamworks Brewing Co., said his Durango restaurant “loves” to support local farm and ranch operations.
Steamworks grinds beef for hamburger patties, and because of the volume of Durango’s biggest restaurant, it uses a machine to make the patties.
One big stumbling block for getting locally sourced meats and produce, Bissonnette said, is having a consistent, reliable supply great enough to meet Steamwork’s large sales volume.
If a new meat-processing facility added to the consistency and reliability of a supply, he said, the new plant would be a welcome addition to the local supply chain.
“Our big obstacle (in serving local meats) has been volume; we’re so big. That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t be interested if the volume was there,” he said.
Rick Hessom, co-owner of Once Upon a Sandwich in Cortez, said he too is supportive of using local products, but his concern was the price point.
Hessom said he would be interested in examining a supply relationship with Mominee if the price was right.
“We’d look at ground beef, maybe some roasts. It all depends on the going rate, but I can see how something like that makes sense around here. Telluride is a high-end market, and Durango can charge more,” he said. “I’d love to support local if the price is competitive.”
Still, Mominee will face opposition from neighbors.
Four neighbors spoke against the proposal, which received unanimous votes to recommend approval to the county commissioners when it went before the Planning and Zoning Board on Thursday.
Board members limited the proposal to process no more than 500 animals in a year.
The proposal is expected to go before the Montezuma County Commission in late August or early September.
Douglas Doty, a neighbor on County Road 39, said he agreed with commissioners that the proposal would be good for the county’s economy, but he thinks the location is wrong.
“A slaughterhouse is an industrial facility, and it belongs in an industrial area and not a rural neighborhood,” he said.
Another neighbor, John Patton, worried about odors, traffic volumes and environmental damage to the Mancos River. He said he would suffer monetarily.
“I didn’t move here to live next to a slaughterhouse. It will adversely affect my property value, which is important to me,” he told board members.