Talon Vancuren feeds several of the livestock located on his ranch in Flippin on Tuesday. Vancuren is the manager of a Facebook team for people curious about acquiring shares in a beef manufacturing plant that will certainly refine just American-raised livestock. The team has actually drawn in greater than 7,500 participants because being developed May 6. ( Image: Anna Liles/The Baxter Publication)
FLIPPIN– Talon Vancuren intends to bring “Made in the U.S.A.” to the meat area of your regional supermarket.
The Flippin Secondary school agri instructor dreams of a beef handling plant that manages just U.S.-raised livestock. That beef would certainly be USDA checked, marketed to retail electrical outlets and also classified as an item of the USA.
A couple of retail plans currently birth sticker labels asserting the meat is an item of the U.S.A., yet such labeling can be tricking, Vancuren claimed.
” It can suggest it was available in a box from Brazil, they touched it up and afterwards it’s an item of the U.S.A.,” he claimed. “I want to see ‘This is an item of XYZ Cattle ranch in Wyoming,’ or ‘This originated from Vancuren Farms in Flippin, Arkansas.’ I desire individuals to understand what they’re obtaining. I’m discussing livestock birthed, increased, collected within the USA. No imports.”
On May 6, Vancuren developed a Facebook team qualified “A group for people who will invest $100 to start a co-op USA beef plant,” and has since seen the group’s membership list climb to more than 7,500 users.
There’s more than 913,000 farms with cattle in America, and more than 26,500 feed lots across the U.S. Yet there are only four international beef packers that control 80 percent of the American market.
“It’s a bottleneck,” Vancuren said. “There’s four companies, and they’re not competing for American cattle. They don’t need to.”
Those “Big Four” can offer American cattlemen $1 a pound for a ready to harvest animal, and if that bid is declined, then they can import cheaper cattle from Brazil, Mexico or somewhere else, Vancuren said.
“Because you have a product that’s ready to be harvested, you’ve got no choice but to sell to them for what they demand,” he said. “Go to the store and buy some hamburger that’s labeled as being a product of the USA — you can’t. It doesn’t say it on the label, and the reason is because they are hiding behind what they’re putting in there. They’re sending our good beef overseas, importing cheaper foreign beef and expanding their profit margins even more.”
A beef plant processing only American cattle would provide an alternative to selling to the Big Four at non-negotiable prices, Vancuren said.
“We would have to buy it for what we could get it for here in the U.S.,” Vancuren said of his proposed beef plant. “If we can get it for a $1 (a pound), we’ll pay $1. If one of the Big Four comes in and says, ‘No, we’ll pay more to keep you from having it,’ then we’ve succeeded. That’s what we need — a competitive market for people to sell their cattle.”
When one buyer is willing to pay up for cattle, that forces others buyers to do the same, he said.
“We’ve got to create competition,” Vancuren said. “That’s the big plan, create competition within the cattle industry.”
If something is not done to re-energize cattle prices, America will lose its beef industry, just like it has already lost its poultry and pork industries, Vancuren said.
“Those birds and those hogs are raised under contract now,” he said. “Nobody owns them but the big corporations. That’s where cattle’s going. And when that happens, you no longer have independent cattle producers with 50 cows. You no longer have family farms with 15 cows. It’s gone.”
In April 2019, Walmart announced it was establishing its own end-to-end supply chain to sell Angus beef cuts in 500 of its stores. Walmart’s announcement came half a year after its competitor Costco announced it was creating a poultry supply chain, which the company said will account for 40 percent of its needs.
Vancuren said he hopes to grow the Facebook group to 100,000 members. Realistically, not everyone who joins the group would actually invest $100 towards the project, he said.
“This is not about $100. This is about people that are willing to invest in a company that will save the independent cattle producers,” Vancuren said. “When I say ‘independent cattle producer,’ I’m talking about someone who has one cow or has 7,000 head. If they are producing calves and they’re selling them at a sale barn or selling them under contract to the next person, this is about saving them.”
Vancuren said he’s received $100 in donations from friends with instructions to purchase Facebook ads to help promote his group.
“I put 100 percent of that money back into ads,” he said. “I’m not making any money off this. Zilch. Nada. Where I’ll make money on this deal is when I take my calves and sell them and someone’s willing to give more because they know they can get more for them.”
The agri teacher, who keeps 17 cattle on his farm in Flippin, isn’t ready to discuss collecting money or actually selling shares at this juncture, anyway, he said.
“We’re at step one right now,” Vancuren said. “We’ve got to gather members and see what they would be willing to pledge to get things started.”
The second step would be to form a corporation with a board of directors. Those people would already be from the cattle industry and would craft an operations plan. Vancuren already has a Flippin attorney on board to offer legal advice.
The next step would be to publicly release the operating plan and sell shares in the corporation, ideally at $100 a share. That sale would then provide the operating capital needed to build the beef plant and start things rolling, Vancuren said.
“There’s people out there that say there’s so much red tape that this can’t be done,” he said. “Well, there’s one thing that cuts red tape: Money. If we get the money, we get the corporation, we get the board and then we can cut through all the red tape.”
Vancuren predicted that the beef plant’s eventual investors would be those already involved in the cattle industry and not looking for an immediate return on their $100 investments.
“That $100 is $100 to save their industry, to save their way of life,” he said. “If you’re expecting to invest $100 and get a big return, you’re probably here for the wrong reason.”
Vancuren tries to post a daily video on the group’s Facebook page explaining his idea and answering questions from group members. The members themselves are also quite active in the group, often advocating for or against ideas.
One frequently asked question, no doubt spurred by the soaring cost of retail beef at the moment, is how much meat a $100 share in the proposed company would return.
“The only way you’re going to be able to purchase meat from this thing is in the grocery store where it distributes to,” Vancuren said. “It’s going to be a brand of meat that’s going to be labeled a product of the USA. The cattle will come from all over the United States.”
Members asking about how much meat each share returns are probably confusing the proposal with farm-to-fork operations where whole or half steers are purchased by a family from a local farm and butchered at a nearby facility.
“It’s a great idea, and I back it 100 percent,” Vancuren said. “But that’s not what we’re talking about here. You can still buy your whole or half (steer) from someone. But if that person has 50 head of cattle, this is something for the other 49, they need a place to go, too.”
The location of the proposed beef plant is another lively topic in the group. The plant itself, not the plant’s location, is the key thing, Vancuren said.
“People in the industry understand that location is the least part of this,” he said. “They know that one plant doing this will make a difference for the others. We need one packing plant that will only purchase U.S. beef and label it all the way through to the point of purchase — when the consumer picks up a package and it’s labeled ‘U.S. beef’ — then other companies will have no choice but to start buying U.S. beef.”
Another lively discussion is whether the plant should focus on grass-fed or hormone-free cattle exclusively. Those things are driven by consumer demand, Vancuren said.
When consumers demand grass beef, then there will be grass beef on the shelf and when they demand hormone free, there will be hormone free on the shelf, he said. Until then, it was best to focus on what was presently in the greater demand.
“This group is not in the business of reinventing the wheel. What works is a big packing plant that kills a lot of cattle,” he said. “That works because that is what it takes to be profitable. You can’t kill three cows a day and keep a grocery store packed.”
Group members should rally around the common goal of getting U.S. beef into supermarkets, Vancuren said.
“The attitude I have is we first have to unite,” he said. “If you want American beef, then stop there. Don’t say, ‘I want American beef that’s grass fed.’ Let’s just start at ‘I want American beef.’ The rest can be decided later. First, we save the industry, then we look into those niche markets.”
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