MOUNTAIN GROVE, Mo. (AP) — A Wyoming-based company has been considering building a horse meat processing plant in southwest Missouri, where some residents welcome the possibility of new jobs but others are concerned about possible stigma.
Unified Equine has been conducting a feasibility study on a plan to build the plant east of Mountain Grove near the Wright-Texas county line. Wyoming state legislator Sue Wallis created the company last November after Congress approved a bill allowing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to begin inspections again for horse meat plants.
Wallis told KY3-TV she is confident the plant will open — perhaps by the end of the year — and that it would initially bring 40 to 55 jobs to the area, with possible expansion to more than 100.
"We wanted a state that was supportive of our efforts, and the folks in Missouri are 100 percent on board with what we're trying to do and how we're trying to do it," Wallis said.
The plant would slaughter and process about 200 horses a day in one shift, or up to 400 a day if there were two shifts of workers, and then distribute the horse meat to ethnic and specialty markets in the U.S. and abroad, Wallis said.
Supporters say in addition to bringing jobs to the area, the plant would put suffering or neglected horses out of their misery. Critics say they can't stomach the idea of horses being processed for meat.
Mountain Grove resident Danita McCraig said the plant would encourage people to move away.
"Everywhere you go, everybody's talking about it, the slaughter plant coming in," McCraig said. "It's sad they picked Mountain Grove to do something like that in, because basically, we have a good little town here, and I'm not originally from here. I'm a transplant, but I still have pride in the town, and I don't want it abused."
Nathan Kelly, owner of Wright County Livestock Auction, said horses often go for only about $50 at the monthly auction. He believes a meat market would increase their value and lead to fewer horses living neglected and malnourished.
"If you have an owner who can't give an animal away, can't afford to feed it, if they're working for $10 or $12 an hour, they can barely afford to feed their own family, much less their horse, so they're going to take care of their family first," Kelly said.