The owners of South 40 Beef near Mott, John and Kim Roswech, weren’t ranchers most of their lives. Originally from the East Coast, John and Kim acquired a ranch in the Mott area in 2012.
“Once I crossed the Missouri River, I really fell in love with this part of the country,” John says. “I came out here 20 years ago to start pheasant hunting and I fell in love with the area and the place. Before I know it, we bought a farmstead and some land and we started ranching.”
Pointing out he had no prior ranching experience, John says a few area ranchers have take him under their wing, teaching him about the industry.
Today, they are fully invested, with not only a ranch, but a federally inspected processing facility as well.
THE BUSINESS PLAN
South 40 Beef opened near Mott April 1, selling beef from its own Angus cattle raised on the Roswech ranch, and custom processing for other ranchers.
The 6,000-square-foot plant, located a mile west of the Mott airport along Highway 21, includes a retail storefront, where all products originate from the Roswech ranch and are sold as South 40 Beef, and is served by Slope Electric Cooperative.
The facility has created 20 new jobs in the small community, which is a boon for Mott and Hettinger County.
“Here we stand, breaking ground today. This is a milestone for Hettinger County and the city of Mott. … This is the biggest economic development project we’ve had in Hettinger County in years. It’s a big plus for us,” said Mott Mayor Troy Mosbrucker during the September 2020 groundbreaking for the facility. “Everyone involved in this project believes in this project.”
“We are happy to be providing jobs to the community. We focus on hiring mostly local people,” Kim says, although the head butcher relocated from Tampa, Fla.
South 40 Beef is processing 80 to 100 head a month, focusing on cattle now, and already planning an addition to also process hogs.
The facility’s business plan is twofold, John explains. First, they are processing their own cattle at the plant and selling their beef online, using his background in technology and e-commerce. Secondly, South 40 Beef offers custom butchery to the local ranching community.
“It’s been very, very busy from day one,” Kim says. South 40 Beef is being shipped from coast to coast weekly from the Mott facility, and it is delivered locally to Minot, Bismarck, Dickinson and Rapid City, S.D. “We get in the car and deliver the meat to our customers’ doors,” Kim says. One day, an employee was driving 25 orders to Minot.
Their website, www.south40beef.com(link is external), allows consumers to select the cuts they want and the meat is packed and shipped overnight or by two-day air. And South 40 Beef is sold from the storefront at a lower price point as a service to the community. Many local businesses also offer South 40 Beef, including Bottoms Up Bar and Grill, Oien’s Grocery Store and Pheasant Cafe in Mott, Star Grocery in New Leipzig, and Blue 42 Grille and The Wurst Shop in Dickinson, with additional locations pending.
“We have a lot of quality control over what our product is, from beginning to end,” Kim says. The beef also carries the Pride of Dakota label.
“We are vertically integrated, meaning we own the entire process, from raising cattle, to the processing and packaging of beef,” John says.
As the second part of the plan, the federally inspected facility, certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), is custom butchering for other ranchers.
“Our goal is to help local ranchers get their beef to market,” John says. “We want to help ranchers sell their beef directly to consumers and gross more per animal.”
South 40 Beef has gotten a good response from ranchers across the state, Kim says, who can custom butcher their beef, then label and sell themselves.
“The response from local ranchers has been great,” John says. “The reason that it’s been so good, I think, is because we are cutting and processing under USDA inspection. That brings a different level to the facility, in terms of processing beef, from a humane handling perspective of the cattle and then also from a cleanliness of the facility.”
South 40 Beef was also awarded a $7,275 grant from the N.D. Agricultural Products Utilization Commission for engineering and plant design for the processing facility.
“It was John’s enthusiasm that actually pushed the commission to help support the engineering, the design. They came in with such a passion, such excitement that we said, ‘You know what? These guys might actually be able to do it,’” said N.D. Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring during the groundbreaking. “That’s a great story to be told for right here in Mott, North Dakota, and this region of the state and for our farmers and ranchers. It just creates more opportunity.”
FINDING THEIR STEP
“We have learned so much about this industry,” Kim says, who always tried to purchase locally to feed her family.
“So, when we got into this, it was an extension of what I believed and what I knew a lot of people around me believed in – we want to feed our family healthy, local food,” she says.
Planning for the facility started prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it now fills an even more vital need, the couple says.
“The timing was so crazy in all this, because it happened at a time, when all of a sudden, there was a concern like, ‘Wait a minute, where am I going to get food for my family?’ When I walked into one of the larger grocery stores, the meat counters were empty during the pandemic,” Kim said. “We want to answer the question, ‘Where is my food coming from?’”
As a federally inspected facility, an inspector is onsite at South 40 Beef all day, every day. The inspector is a full-time federal employee with a private office at the plant.
“If you look around North Dakota, there are not many federally inspected plants,” John says.
“To see beef hanging in the cooler has put a huge smile on my face. There have been a lot of ups and downs in getting this project going, but we are finding our step,” John said.
Luann Dart is a freelance writer and editor who lives in the Elgin area.