Handling of pig ‘byproducts’ part of definition of slaughterhouse in Sioux Falls pork plant debate


Source: Mitchell Republic

Wholestone Farms custom butchery is at the center of legal dispute about whether the farmer-owned cooperative can continue construction. Smart Growth Sioux Falls has asked a court to stop city from issuing permits and revoking some existing ones.

Slaughtering and processing pigs involves activities that can only be considered unpleasant to average folks.

It’s the necessary path to food — the pork chops, ham and pulled pork sandwiches — that we mostly take for granted.

But what we don’t see are the byproducts, both edible and nonedible. That’s the organs, blood, hides and bones. Whether you can eat it or not, it all has a market.

Those byproducts are an element of the legal question over whether Wholestone Farms can continue with plans to build a pork processing plant in northeast Sioux Falls. That’s because the definition of “slaughterhouse” in city ordinance includes the words “refining byproducts.”

Wholestone is building a small custom butchery on the site of where they hope to operate a full-scale processing plant. The farmer-owned cooperative, based in Fremont, Neb., believes the butchery meets the slaughterhouse definition. Therefore, they contend, the citywide vote on Nov. 8 on whether to ban new slaughterhouses doesn’t apply to their plant because they started under the current regulations.

Smart Growth Sioux Falls filed for an injunction earlier this month asking a judge to stop the city of Sioux Falls from issuing any new permits for Wholestone — and revoking existing ones — until after the vote. They say state law prohibits the city from taking any action that preempts their petition for the vote, which they filed in July.

Wholestone announced plans for the butcher shop after that filing.

A hearing on that request hasn’t yet been scheduled, but both parties expect it will occur in the next couple weeks.

The complaint is wide-ranging. The legal arguments and the potential decision will play out in court. But the notion of what is a slaughterhouse is sure to play a role.

The full definition in city code is: “A facility for the slaughtering and processing of animals and the refining of their byproducts.”

Will the butcher shop refine byproducts?

Sean Simpson, who serves as general counsel for Pipestone System, speaks to the Davison County Commission Tuesday in Mitchell regarding Jackrabbit Farms. (Marcus Traxler/Republic)
Sean Simpson, general counsel for Pipestone Holdings, speaks to the Davison County Commission in Mitchell. (Marcus Traxler/Republic)
(Marcus Traxler/Republic)

It’s early in the process so it’s too soon to know what will be refined on site, and what may be shipped to another facility, said Sean Simpson, general counsel and chief strategy officer for Pipestone Holdings.

Pipestone is an agriculture management and research company that is working with Wholestone on the project. Whether on site or off, those byproducts will be refined, which meets the definition, said Simpson.

“We aren’t taking in a side of a hog, or half a hog, and then cutting it up,” he said. “It comes in live and it goes out dead. You have to deal with the whole hog and we are going to deal with the whole hog.”

Byproducts typically make up about 30% of the live weight of a pig, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The other 70% is considered the “dressed carcass,” which includes all the tasty pieces of meat.

But all the parts are worth money to somebody.

“Nobody wants waste,” Simpson said “We will find a house for most of it.”

Robert Peterson
Robert Peterson, treasurer for Smart Growth Sioux Falls, which opposes new slaughterhouses in Sioux Falls.

Robert Peterson, treasurer for Smarth Growth, said Wholestone has admitted the building is a gambit to inoculate the processing plant from the vote.

“This custom butcher shop is a shameless, ‘Hail Mary’ attempt to sidestep over 10,000 local residents who put this ordinance on the ballot,” Peterson said. “The people of Sioux Falls know that this doesn’t pass the smell test.”