SPRINGFIELD — A Wyoming company that processes horse meat for human consumption is considering opening a plant in western Missouri after cost considerations and local opposition stalled plans for another location in the state.
Sue Wallis, a Wyoming state representative and CEO of Unified Equine LLC, said the company has found a former beef processing plant in a rural area along a state highway that could be retrofitted for horse slaughter, but she declined to name the location because the property deal is not complete.
Unified Equine earlier proposed converting a former gas pipeline production facility near Mountain Grove in southwest Missouri into a plant capable of processing up to 200 horses a day. But protests by residents and the anticipated conversion costs acted as a deterrent.
"We had pretty much made the decision that (it) was not the spot," Wallis told The Springfield News-Leader.
She said the new proposed location still has U.S. Department of Agriculture certification as a beef processing plant, which is important because similar methods and equipment are used for processing cattle and horses. Richard McIntyre, a spokesman for the USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service, said Unified Equine has not yet applied for a federal grant of inspection that is required before the plant could operate.
Last year, Congress removed a 5-year-old ban on funding federal horse meat inspections, making it possible to reopen horse slaughtering plants in the U.S.
Most of the meat from the Unified Equine plant would be sent overseas, Wallis said.
USDA officials have said it will take some time to develop procedures for testing and inspecting horse processing plants because no such facility has been inspected for six years.
Renee Bungart, a spokeswoman for Missouri Department of Natural Resources, said Unified Equine would likely have to apply for a number of permits related to pollution and construction, depending on the type of building and location.