Aberdeen plant processing Certified Angus Beef

In the heart of South Dakota—a state ranked fourth in yearly Angus registrations, where all cattle outnumber people four to one—there’s been a bit of a desert for marketers of high-quality fed cattle.

Many finished animals are still shipped to neighboring states for processing, but DemKota Ranch Beef, a packing plant in Aberdeen, S.D., is looking to keep a higher percentage of them close to home.

Recently signing on as the first and only plant in the state to license with the Certified Angus Beef ® (CAB®) brand, it produced the official first pound for the brand April 2.

“We’re excited about focusing on more of a relationship with our local feeders, and truly getting this plant to meet the goals those initial investors envisioned,” says Todd Landfried. The vice president of branded/export sales and marketing for DemKota notes the plant was built on hopes of supporting the state’s feeding industry and its cow-calf suppliers.

First opened in 2012, the plant is now operated by its third owner, New Angus LLC, funded by San Francisco-based investment firm White Oak Global Advisers.

“Our advantage is that corn is plentiful and cheap in this market. Diets are very similar from feeder to feeder, so you’re going to get a consistent taste bringing it in from a small region like that,” Landfried says.

To start, they source cattle from a 250-mile radius of Aberdeen, but plan to reduce that circle as the business moves to a higher percentage of fed cattle in the 1,250-head daily harvest.

In order to reach the plant’s 1,500 head-per-day floor capacity, they’d need to invest in more cooler space, so the near-term target is to reach 1,300 head, Landfried says.

“As we get more of a database, we’ll sort out who has the best cattle and they’ll be the first priority,” Russo says. “We want to get the best ones here.”