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State Hands Out $5 Million In COVID Relief To Local Butchers

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Lee Strubinger
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Left to Right: Randy Gruenwald, Lt Gov. Larry Rhoden, Gov. Kristi Noem and State Senator Jessica Castleberry talk about meat processing.

The state of South Dakota is using some federal COVID relief money for grants to prop up butchers across the state. 

The $5 million dollars are split among 99 different businesses. 

There’s about 5 cattle for every person in South Dakota and that beef’s got to go somewhere. Some hope it’s not large meat packers. 

“I don’t want any more packers,” Noem says. “I’m sick of packers. In fact, I think packers are stealing from our producers.” 

That’s Governor Kristi Noem. She, along with folks from the cattle industry are announcing meat processing grand dollars that are going to 99 different lockers, including 16 new businesses in the state. Awards range from $9,000 to $108,000. 

Noem says the money will help decentralize the meat industry, but it’s not enough. 

“We’re not even close to touching the surface to what we could have and host here in the state in terms of processing,” Noem says. “This is a drop in the bucket, but it’s a start. I think we can prove that it works. 

Randy Gruenwald co-owns Dakota Butcher with his wife Karen. The East River butcher is expanding to Rapid City. Randy says it’s a critical time for processors. He says the grant money couldn’t have come at a better time. 

“A grinder costs $20,000 or a freezer could cost you up to $50,000,” Gruenwald says. “Everything takes a lot longer to get it done. Everything costs a lot more to get it done.” 

The grants come on the heels of a cyberattack on meat processing giant JBS that shut down its operations for several days.