Egg Company Weighs up New Site in South Dakota

US - Sonstegard Food Co. is looking at a site near Parker, South Dakota, with the view to setting up a new facility with up to six million hens, feed mill and processing plant.
calendar icon 24 February 2015
clock icon 3 minute read

A Sioux Falls-based poultry company is seeking permits to build its first South Dakota operation. The proposed six million-chicken laying barn near Parker, South Dakota, would be the state’s largest poultry operation, according to Tri-State Neighbor.

Proponents say it would create jobs and provide a steady market for South Dakota-grown grain but some residents have raised concerns about the smell of manure and attracting flies.

The proposed site, a cornfield at 274th Street and 451st Avenue, sits about three miles from the city of Parker, population just more than 1,000. The company behind the plans is Sonstegard Food Co., which has other similar laying operations, including Sunrise Farms with 4.5 million chickens in Osceola County near Harris, Iowa.

The 10-year plan for the Parker site would start with a processing facility and a feed mill, then build a barn a year, “depending on what the market looks like,” said Peter Sonstegard, the company’s vice president of sales.

Each barn would hold 600,000 chickens. Mr Sonstegard said they would build using the newest technology in chicken barns with a manure belt system. Each day the manure would be moved out and put in a shed to dry.

The biggest plus to the operation, he said, is being able to feed the chickens with local grain instead of shipping it to an outside market. He said the birds eat about a bushel a year. When the operation reaches six million birds, they will use six million bushels of grain.

Sonstegard also pointed to the jobs the plant would create and the tax dollars it would mean for local jurisdictions. “It's a great way to give back,” he said.

Some neighbouring landowners disagree.

Sonstegard Foods Co. sells dried egg products – used in making processed baked goods – and shell eggs all over world, including markets in Mexico, Canada, Japan and the European Union. It employs about 450 people in six states.

Mr Sonstegard’s grandfather started the company 43 years ago in Howard Lake, Minnesota. In the mid-1980s, it moved its headquarters to Sioux Falls.

Since that move, he said, the company has been looking to add an egg production facility in South Dakota. It started to focus serious energy into that plan in the past year, examining different sites and the permitting rules in different counties.

In Turner County, Mr Sonstegard told Tri-State Neighbor, he thinks the company has found the right combination of roads, quality water, access to grain and workable permitting rules.

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