COLUMBIA, SC — The South Carolina Beef Marketing Cooperative was recently introduced to increase beef capacity in the state and create a branded beef product for the state.

The cooperative was formed with the South Carolina Center for Cooperative and Enterprise Development, a collaborative effort between the South Carolina Department of Agriculture, Clemson University Cooperative Extension, the South Carolina State Small Business Development Center and Matson Consulting.

Steve Richards, director of the SC Center for Cooperative and Enterprise Development, completed a study in 2021 that showed a $3 million investment in six existing facilities could expand in-state processing capacity by 50% and create 50 new jobs.

“Processing capacity continues to be the most critical bottleneck to expanding the local meat supply,” Richards said. “The second most important issue is to expand market outlets for local meat: more retail buying points and more offerings in grocery stores and restaurants. This cooperative association aims to work on both issues simultaneously.”

According to the South Carolina Department of Agriculture, putting together the cooperative makes it easier for the group to apply for grants from the USDA in order to expand capacity at processing plants.

The state agriculture department pointed to Kentucky Cattlemen’s Ground Beef as a goal for the cooperative when trying to sell its product. 

Another reason for the co-op is to maintain family farms, said Gwendolyn McPhail, treasurer of the board and owner of Black Diamond Sheep and Cattle in Seneca, South Carolina.

“We see a lot of open land in South Carolina that used to have cattle on it – but because there was not competitive pricing, because there was a processing backlog, a lot of smaller cattlemen have simply gone out of business,” McPhail said. “I believe people will see new hope now in raising cattle and join us."

After the most recent announcement, the cooperative also named its executive board members.