WESTON, Mo. — Inflation has been a frequently discussed economic topic over the last few months, with prices increasing across various sectors.
That includes beef, and it’s affecting cattle ranchers in the greater Kansas City community.
Up in Weston, one ranch is still navigating difficult terrain.
Winters are hard at the KC Cattle Company — taking care of the calves and keeping them happy in the cold temperatures, and the feeder cattle, too.
“We buy animals or raise them on the property and we convert and harvest that into Wagyu beef,” said owner and operator Patrick Montgomery.
Processing happens off-site, and then packaging and shipping happen on-site in Missouri.
For a veteran-owned, small operation like KC Cattle, the processing step is when they start to feel the squeeze.
“There’s four companies that control about 80% of the protein in the United States, and then that other 20%, there’s only a couple processors that kind of do that market,” Montgomery said.
An entry point is only part of the problem.
“The labor shortage has hit processors right in the chin. So they're really struggling to find people that are competent, know what they're doing with cutting beef, which is a very specific skill set,” Montgomery explained.
Paying more for that specialized labor passes on price increases to cattle ranchers like KC Cattle. And then there’s the supply chain.
“We started seeing price increases in February 2021 from cardboard going up 30%, processing going up 15%, gel packs, liners, everything. It was a pretty brutal year for us in 2021,” Montgomery said.
Help is coming for processors.
This week, the Biden Administration announced $1 billion in American Rescue Plan funding to expand independent processing capacity.
At KC Cattle, the end of the year holiday sales helped, too. Now they’re ramping up for a new calendar year.
“We do have an e-commerce business that we shipped all 50 states. We have a local delivery service that delivers about 170 zip codes here in Kansas City…and we just opened up a retail spot in Parkville," Montgomery said.
That new location offers customers a true farm-to-table experience, supporting a local rancher and veteran-owned business with its workforce representing multiple branches of the United States Military.