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Horse Processing Plants: Not Just a Horse Issue
by: Pat Raia
January 06 2011, Article # 17502
Print Email Add to Favorites ShareThisAs the lackluster economy continues to challenge the horse industry, ranchers, lawmakers, and horse owners gathered at the Summit of the Horse in Las Vegas, Nev., this week to discuss the economic state of the industry and the unwanted horse issue. One of the topics drawing much attention to the summit was ways to re-establish the horse processing industry in the United States. But the path to making processing plants profitable for investors is complicated, economic experts say.
The U.S. horse processing industry began to decline in 2005 when Congress stripped the USDA of funding for food safety inspections at the plants. The USDA continued to offer inspections on a fee basis until 2007 when a federal judge ruled against the inspection for fee arrangement, effectively forcing the remaining U.S. plants to close.
The decision eliminated the processing option just before the economic recession sent horse-keeping costs soaring. In response, some members of the horse industry sought to reinstate horse processing in the U.S., which they believe would help decrease the number of unwanted horses. Despite potent opposition from animal rights advocates, legislation promoting private sector processing plant development was introduced in a few states in 2009 with mixed results. Processing plant development legislation became law in Montana and Wyoming in 2009, and lawmakers in other states remain committed to passing similar legislation.
Economic development consultant Bill Fredrick, president of the consulting firm Wadley-Donovan Growth Tech Economic & Workforce Development, is not surprised. Given recession-generated job and tax-revenue losses, horse processing plant development can have appeal especially in states west of the Mississippi River.
"People in the Western states and in the upper Midwest tend to be more realistic about things (involving livestock)," said Fredrick. "Also, in areas where unemployment is high, the plants could be pitched as creating jobs for Americans and developing an underutilized resource."
However, it takes more than processing-friendly legislation to lure serious plant developers. Along with the political will, communities must also have the infrastructure necessary to support plant operations, Fredrick said.
"In order for a plant to be developed, it needs workforce and the sewage and water infrastructure necessary to support it," he said. "Places where cattle processing plants already exist are good location choices."
Plant success also is contingent on product safety inspection availability. Wyoming's law avoids the predicament by limiting meat distribution to within its borders and allowing state officials to inspect the products. But the market limitation could discourage serious investors, Fredrick said.
"In states where there is a small population, you just don't have much of a market, and Americans don't generally consume horsemeat," he said. "So to attract investors, it would have to be an export business, and then the inspection complication arises again."
But foreign market demand for animal protein products including horsemeat, is on the rise in Asia, Eastern Europe, and other developing economies where per capita incomes are growing and cultural opposition to horsemeat consumption is scant or nonexistent, said Jim Robb, director of the Livestock Marketing Information Center in Colorado.
Even if producers can overcome inspection and operations obstacles, exporting food products is a complicated and time-consuming business. To be successful, exporters must identify marketing channels and cultivate relationships with offshore clients, and cope with export restrictions periodically imposed by foreign governments, Robb said.
Meanwhile, Washington State University agricultural economist Shannon Neibergs, PhD, said plant promoters must be mindful of investor concerns over financial market fluctuations. The U.S. dollar's current value below the Japanese yen and the European euro makes U.S. products affordable for foreign consumers. But the same products become more costly when U.S. currency value rises. The changes are directly connected to plant profits, Neibergs said.
"Plant investors will be looking at the payback period," he said. "They'll have to evaluate profitability over the long term."
Despite the passage of processing-friendly legislation, horse processing plants have yet to open in Montana and Wyoming. Even if they do, Neibergs does not believe processing is the sole remedy for the equine industry's economic woes.
"There many variables," Neibergs said. "The economy isn't going to turn around overnight
The Cowboy Poet
It should be remembered that humans regulate animals. Animals have no rights as was wrongly stated in the Pro and Con article written by Deanne Stillman. If left to their own, animals will eat their own as was so horribly found in the northwest till we started hunting the black bear once again. They eat all the elk and moose and when that is all gone they start eating themselves. When Kenya outlawed hunting in the early seventies, the elephant population was well over 150,000 animals. When the economic value was taken away, poachers and do-gooders started the extermination. The national parks were loaded with animals that trampled the ground and the rains washed the soil away and the elephants starved to death. All in the name of saving the elephants. Today, Kenya has less than 5000 elephants. It should also be noted that we have more white tail deer in America than ever before. That is the direct result of game management by hunters. The horse is not alone in the battle for survival. Compassion should not be part of the fight. We are going through this with the wolf and the mountain lion and it is not fun dealing with people who do not look at the facts. In California a woman was killed by a lion while jogging and left behind two children. The lion was killed and it left behind two cubs. Charities brought in $24,000.00 for the lion cubs and $1,800.00 for the orphan children. That is why California is going broke. Warped priorities breed economic and environmental disaster. Be careful of how you handle the economy, because that money is what saves the animals. Compassion is the root of all evil when left to rule the world of wild animals.
While I don't own any horses of my own (although i'd really like to, and mustangs are one of my favorite breeds) I can most certainly sympathize with the "bleeding hearted" people here, in this forum. However, as romantic and wonderful as it would be to say that we could just let the herds "manage" themselves, I would have to say this would spell disaster; not just for the environment,and the economy, but for the wildlife (horses included).
As i'm sure most of you know, theese horses are feral; they are not native to the american environment, and while they have shown their hardiness, and their fitness it doesn't change the fact that they are still an invasive species and they had to misplace other grazers in the food web to adapt to their new niche. They were not supposed to be here in the first place.
What I can tell you, is that bad things happen to everyone and everything involved once the carrying capacity of an environment has been exceeded. If you may recall the dust bowl of the 30s/40s, which was a result of overgrazing by cattle, because we exceeded the environments carrying capacity.
I guess my point here is that if we do not keep their population in check, large amounts of the horses are going to die of starvation, as well as many of the other NATIVE wildlife. Once the grass is gone via overgrazing, that opens up the door to erosion, as well as the resulting effects on OUR food supply and the economcal impact would be in the billions. It is all connected my friends. Once an ecosystem is destroyed it takes hundreds of years to regain it's former status, we simply could not afford to let this happen, given our rising populations and ever greater demands for food.
In conclusion, Helicopter round ups are not all that inhumane, neither are sterilizations when you take into consideration that when deer or puma become overpopulated we issue hunting permits. They should also reduce the price/adoption restrictions on the animals so they can be more easily accesible to the masses.
p.s. If I may also add, that since society has been squishing our wildlife populations into little islands of habitat, this becomes even more important as more land is consumed by humans. Nature can take care of this problem herself but she is far more cruel than ourselves i'm afraid.
Just chanced upon this site but must comment....I am in total agreement with most of the posts I just read regarding "management" of the wild horse and burro herds. Good and, I know, kind "romantic hearted" folks wish to preserve a "vision" that can no longer exist. Horses, Burros, Deer and Elk, Bison... protected and allowed to multiply, die annually to starvation and disease rather than to natural pedators which WE do not allow (because they might kill the range cattle and sheep! There is little I have not experienced with horses...they have been the "rocks" of my soul. However, I opposed the "Horse Slaughter" bill, not only because of the wild horses, but also because of our "domestic" horses who now starve and die on "We will save them!!" plots of ground (whose "rescuers" can not support them). When I was a child, 60 + years ago, the food we fed our dogs was "Hiils Pure Horse Meat".
The humane transport of ANY animal to it's end should be the focus of a new bill.
I have two Mustangs. Our first we bought because our son was taking riding lessons and fell in love with his lesson horse a Mustang named Rebel. Rebel was 7 yrs old when we bought him, he's now 20 and still going strong. Our second I bought at a BLM Competative Bid Auction in Knoxville, TN. I paid $165 for Dixie. She was a little scrap of a yearling but I fell in love with her. Her herd had been thinned because of a several year draught and it showed. Mustangs get fat on air so there had to be close to nothing for the herd to eat. She's now 13 and I have a terrible time keeping weight off her, same for Rebel. I also adopted a few Mustangs, gentled them and sold them. Never made money on them but did make more people aware of these horses and what good all-round horses they are. They are capable of living and reproducing on very little forage. If Dixie had a choice between going back to her Cedar Mountain Utah herd or staying here. I know her answer would be to stay here.
I think it is our responsibility to manage the herds for the good of the horses.
I own multiple dogs and equines. I love all of my animals, and I care for them. I feed them, water them, give them vet and farrier care, and I don't ask for any financial help to do these things. That's because they are MY animals and I have accepted the responsibility for them and their care.
When animals in the wild are unmanaged, there are no population controls, no hoof or vet care, no grooming, etc., etc. I've never seen any of these bleeding heart sympathizers first in line to donate the cash $ it takes to do these things. They want everyone else to do that.
When the Spanish brought the first horses to the Americas in 50 million years, and some were turned loose, starting the first wild herds, the U.S. was not yet a nation. That means that the wild horses are a part of our nation's heritage, and as such, we have a responsibility to manage and care for them, just as we do our deer, elk, bison, and other herds.
Wildlife management means just that. It doesn't mean to let them overpopulate their ranges and die of disease and starvation. We owe it to ourselves AND the horses to manage them properly...
Here is my two cents worth on this, the question that must be asked here is " do we have the land?". As the population in America grows and we build more and more, some thing must give. Just as the deer population needs thinned out, because there live-able land is less and less, why should handle this any different? Is there a difference? What is the difference between a horse and a deer? or a horse and cattle? I love horses as much as the next guy, but would a horse rancher do something if he had a over population? Or is it OK for the horse rancher to thin out the herd, but not the U.S. government( who owns the land in question)? God made man in His own image (Gen. 1:27), Not a horse, man is greater than any beast of the field.
Very good points McLintock
I know that most in here are to young to remeber what the mustang herds were like 60 years ago. When I got out of the service in the late 50s we decided to go 'mustanging'. Believe me they were the sorryiest bunch of crow baits you ever seen. A horse over 800lbs. was an exception. The rancers were shooting them and leaving them for coyote bait. The herds were so large and inbred that they were nothing more then a bunch of desiese riddin hulks. Then along came Mustang Annie and called attention to these derilect animals. The BLM took over and started thinning the herds and doctoring and worming the ones they turned loos and 'viola' some decent animals started to appear. We have a Mustang my wife adopted 6yrs. ago that is a great animal. He is of good size and is really what I call a decent horse. In the 50s when me and my pardner went Mustanging we ended up down in Mexico where the herds where thind by hardships and seperated by rough country. They were worthy of catching and paying the inport and quarentien fees on to bring back to the US and make a few $ on after being broke and made ridable.
The question I have to the bleeding hearts who are screaming about the round ups and thinning. "How many Mustangs have you adopted to ease this situation" Most who are doing the talking have never seen a live Mustang let alone rode the their ranges in the spring and counted the starved ones who didn't have enough fodder to survive the winter on. This was not caused by beef ranchers because I don't know any responsable cattlemen who leaves ther cattle in the high country in the winter to shift for themselves. I say "keep up the thinning and make us some more good saddle stock".!!
Back under the Carter administration when these "adoptions" all started the horses were going for $25 a head and burros for around $10 a head if I remember correctly. As there was limited resources for follow up and/or enforcement the whole thing was a soaper's dream come true, lot of money made sellin' horse meat to the French. I knew a fella got a burro just to barbecue. I ended up with six head of horses myself. Two of 'em made good horses, one ended up at a race track as a pony horse the other made a Champeen Team Penning horse. The other four, after I gentled 'em, I sold for pets, at a decent profit. The point being, maybe BLM needs to drop the prices a tad. And people need to look at the situation realistically, there's always been a market for meat horses and always will be, squeamishness ain't gonna make it go away.
A pilgrim and a stranger in a strange land. Just passing through.
Desert Rat makes a very good point, how many here have actually adopted a wild horse? For that matter, how many here ahve even donated money to help support the wild ones?
Not many, I would wager.
This discussion is very much like the one awhile back about the horse-kill issue. Everyone loves horses here I believe. I don't think you would come to this site if you did not. However, taking a romantic view of the problem does not necessarily mean that is what is best for the species. I know far too many people that "love" horses and argue aganist any controls that don't evenown a horse. Many of them live in cities and have the romance attitude toward something of which they have no experiece dealing with.
How many here, other than Desert Rat, have ridden up on a dead horse, one that died from starvation? I have, years ago. In fact I rode in on a herd of wild ones, abouot 15 head, and not one of them was worth attempting to capture. They were all starving and sick, just as Desert Rat pointed out.
I am in 100% support of maintaining wild horse herds. But, realistically, we will never go back to the days of wild ones running free throughout the west. It is simply not practical, nor is it fair to the very animals we profess to love.
So, bottom line is, the herds must be managed. The management must be done at the local level, by those who know and love their charges. It must be done humanely, with an eye on what is best for that herd.
Another suggestion to those who oppose thinning the herds; go adopt one or two, or at least donate some money to help care for them
We have had an earlier discussion concerning wild horses where nighthawksh had a great point then just as he does this time with http://americancowboy.com/poll/should-federally-protected-wild-horse-and...
The Bureau of Land Management along with less than a hand full of non-profit 501(c) organizations provide for the wild horses and burros. He explains that due to the increase of human populations, lands become less and he is right to a point. Although there is still plenty of land. Today over 35,000 horses run wild up 12,000 from 1971. Should we allow this herd to double next - spring an once more repeated the next year? Who will come to assist feeding during a drought? Who will assist or do we just ignore them and allow total freedom, to live and die rotting on these lands? How big a herd do we desire?
The question is double sided too. We already do both (a) and (b) to a point. The nation would love to see horses able to run wild. Providing they do not interfere with our life. Individual states allow folks to hunt elk, bear, deer but we do not include horses on this list. We protect the horse. They are special to the cowboy. However, they require management. Yes once they ran wild and lived and died freely. In someways, they still do, but they are controlled, watched and monitored.
When drought has hit these areas the BLM has come in to assist seeing that the herds are being cared for. They also control the numbers based on stats through transfer, adoption and it cost a great deal of money just so we can take vacation to head out and see these horses run wild. It is a pretty sight witnessing so many horses running in a herd.
If one cares to allow the herds to grow larger, we need to make it an appoint to write congress requesting them to purchase more lands, allocate more taxes to be given just for the horses. However, keep in mind that every Tax dollar that goes towards a horse, some other department may suffer such as caring for the elderly. Perhaps feeding the hungry and improved educational programs but that becomes politics which few like having to deal with or can come and meet eye to eye with the one best solution.
I think the horses are a beautiful sight but what does this cost. Yes even running free has a price as this country is far from what it was 100 or even 200 hundred years ago. Perhaps I too can review what the bureau is doing lately so I can grasp a better understanding and how it effects this nation. Most American's today, do not own a horse.
The day where and old cowboy lasso's that wild stallion from the herd is long gone. Although the herd is still there and since slaughter houses have been outlawed in most of the USA, it is cheaper to head out to an auction today than it is to adopt. That makes it more difficult to thin these herds too.
T Boone Pickens and lovely wife Madeleine who have worked very hard with adoptions, fund raising and lobbied the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (HR 503) which would prohibit the slaughter for human consumption and the trade and transport of horse flesh and live horses intended for human consumption have done great work protecting the horse. However, if the BLM just walked away and let the horses roam, the population would grow to large, over eat their range and then die in huge numbers and we would once more blame the Government (BLM) for not protecting what they already do. What really is the right answer?
Read http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/wild_horse_and_burro/national/about/myt... and I think I will search for some PETA video's off you-tube so I can balance the facts along with propaganda in this search for what is the healthy balance for everyone.
Tax dollars spend already over 50 Million per year on just these horses and burros. This does not include, operation expenses, salaries, employee benefits or land being used which I have not reviewed recently. It's costly either way we go....in the name of loving our horses.
I do like people who back up their statements with actual knowledge and facts....bravo. politics is something i do not care to get into but, theese are hard choices to make.
These animals have a right to roam free over the land which they were born, just like us. Enough fences, rules, and being politically correct. There's room enough for all. I've been there.
This, like some before, is an ambigous question. There is no clear-cut answer. It is not a black and white issue. In some areas, it is absolutely necessary to thin the herds. In others, perhaps not so much.
If herds are not thinned in many areas, there will be over populating, which will eventually lead to starvation. Perhaps some gelding would help, but that would be costly. Does everyone want to pay more taxes to feed those animals when they get too crowded for their area? Or more taxes to catch, geld, and release them? My point is, regardless which trail is taken, it is going to costs the taxpayer.
I love to watch the wild ones running free. But this, sadly, it is not the old west any more where there was enough free range to support them. The land is getting more and more crowded, people moving in on the range areas. Less feed for the herds. Less room to roam. More people equal a demand for more beef, thus more of the limited range is needed to provide food for the growing masses.
So, if I could, I would have voted yes and no. There is no short, quick answer to this issue. However, it is an important one, and needs to be discussed publicly.
I don't believe that rich cattlemen have the right to buy out the government to allow this to happen to our wild horses. I am tired of money talking. As an American citizen, I believe my rights are being violated because I don't have the financial means to stand up to big money.
My wife & I own 5 horses (spotted draft, gypsy vanner, tennessee walkers), including a Friesian Stallion, and we breed our mares & sell their offspring; we also offer our stallion for stud. So we know what it takes, in terms of cost - to feed, keep healthy, groom, pasture & housing care - for our labor of love to our horses. Like the next guy, we love to see large herds of horses running free - there just isn't a more awesome sight - but nothing is free...everything has a cost.
There is a terrible cost if we let horses roam free with no herd or land management...their populations would grow to large, they would over eat their range, and then die from disease & starvation. We don't permit other animals (deer, elk, bison, etc.) to die from disease & starvation why should horses not benefit from like responsible management? We owe it to ourselves and these horses to manage them properly. And for those of you have have never owned or cared for a horse but continue to spout your romantic idealism...go and see large numbers of starving, disease-ridden horses and their foals first and then tell me how romantic that is!
There would be a much larger cost in terms of Taxes for increased Mustang and Burro populations...Taxes to cover increases in feeding, vet bills, herd and land management, etc.,...however, I'd rather pay more in Taxes to keep wild mustang and burro populations fed and healthy than pay for skyrocketing costs in Taxes due to a lousy politically-based health care plan and the various pocket-padding bailout efforts in support of a failing Financial Stability Plan!!! Give me a break!
There is no clear-cut answer and it is not a black and white issue...but the bottom line is this: Americans will pay for it one way or another and I'd rather have my integrity in tact paying for the health and welfare of the American Mustang vs the embarrassment of having a National symbol of Freedom & Strength starving, diseased, & dying all over our 'great' land - wouldn't you?
Dropping Adoption prices would be a big help if we are to pay more in Taxes to support wild mustangs & burros - perhaps even a Tax incentive given towards Adoption, yes?
And for those who love to point out Bible verses on how Man is greater and more important than the beast of the field...don't forget: God made animals and blessed them, and saw that they were Good; God gave man dominion over all plants and animals on earth, and with this authority comes the implicit responsibility to tend and keep (protect) what was explicitly given...to use and preserve the resources He had so abundantly provided to us...we are to be good stewards; God permitted man to name the animals so that we would have a greater relationship with that which we named. Yes folks, Man may be greater than horses but with that greatness comes responsibility, care, and sacrifice...not abuse, neglect, nor superior attitudes and foolhardy romantic notions.
I Think you pretty much just said what i did. :)
There is no way that they can do this. These horses are very important and need to be around. The ideas behind this are not good at all. Sexy Lingerie
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