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Planned AI-Driven South Dakota Meat Packing Plant Raises More Questions Than Answers

Victor Westerkamp
Victor resides in the Netherlands and writes about freedom and governmental and social changes to the democratic form of nations.
Published: July 30, 2022
A planned AI-driven meat packer in South Dakota is raising more questions than answers.
Cows graze in a file photo. A joint team of privately owned companies is investing $1.1 billion in a giant meat processing plant, reportedly in a plan to bring competition back to the region and secure the livelihood of thousands of families in South Dakota and neighboring states. Still not everyone is convinced of the company’s good intentions. (Image: JENS SCHLUETER/Getty Images)

A new privately funded meat processing plant in South Dakota relying on fully automated AI technology will compete in the market, but some people are concerned about the company’s expressed good intentions. 

“We plan to compete by reopening the industry to competition, by being that second bidder in the cash markets,” Megan Kingsbury, CEO of Western Legacy Development Corporation, said last month at a press conference, South Dakota media NewsCenter1 reported.

The facility’s construction is planned to break ground in early 2023 in Rapid City, South Dakota, and will take three years to complete. Western Legacy is poised to employ some 2,500 workers, with an additional 40 to 50 jobs created by on-site rendering services, which are run by Farmers Union Industries.

8,000 Heads

After construction, it might take another three months before the $1.1 billion plant will operate in full swing. By that time, it plans to process up to 8,000 head of cattle daily, mainly cow and bison, 252 days a year, totaling over 2 million annually. 

Kingsbury claimed the whole project would be financed by private means and that they had obtained the support of an unnamed Fortune 100-listed company that would be interested in processing byproducts. 


The approximate costs total $60 million annually, and will be entirely borne by privately owned companies Kingsbury and Associates and Sirius Realty and several smaller partners.

Despite the media attention, they have no intentions of moving into the public sphere.

“We are creating a brand that is ‘America first,’ focusing on procuring American cattle and feeding American citizens affordable, high-quality protein as our first priority. Our grocery store shelves should never be empty of meat again,” said Kingsbury.

Checking ‘all the boxes’

Some media outlets report on the development glowingly, such as Tri-State Livestock News, who stated that not only do the investors claim to secure the livelihood of families in the region; but they also have set high standards in building an industry that is good for the workers, the environment, and the native American tribes whom the plant will provide “spiritual renewal and physical nourishment.”

Kingsbury added the company made great efforts to “check all the boxes necessary” to qualify as “good neighbors” and keep the local people happy.

However, not everyone lauds the coming of the one-million-square-foot meat processing plant to a community that houses only slightly more than 77,000 souls.

Some commenters raised concerns, however, about the fact that the facility doesn’t hold any pastures or farmlands at all. Cattle will be railed in directly, discreetly, and invisibly—ready for processing by AI-operated air knives, high velocity airstream, and laser technology before being rendered into biofuels and animal fat.

Furthermore, many question where 8,000 cattle a day are to be sourced from in a state of less than a million people. According to data from the USDA, South Dakota holds 1.6 million beef livestock in inventory. 

8,000 cows processed 252 days per year would amount to more than 2 million head annually.

On top of that, the project boasts to employ 2,550 people. According to website Rushmore Region, this would make the plant the fourth largest employer in the region, behind the hospital network, Ellsworth Air Force Base, and the Federal Government.

As of yet, no housing facilities have been created in the area, and there are no plans to accommodate such a large staff in the moderate community.

Another discrepancy is that the preparations for the project are shoveling full force ahead, while none of the required permits have been granted and the company is said to be still in its research and development phase.

Additionally, Western Legacy has been secretive about who will fund the assessed costs of the whole $1 billion privately-funded project.

A more grim scenario

Some commenters, such as Mike Adams of Health Ranger Report, go as far as to imply an even more grim aspect to the plant’s motivations.“It seems like a bad time to be investing a billion dollars in a beef plant,” Adams commented in his podcast.

“With fertilizer shortages, diesel fuel price spikes, and drought conditions affecting cattle feed and cattle production, it looks like the number of cattle available across America is going to significantly diminish in the years ahead.”