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Wholestone Farms Plans to Thwart Slaughterhouse Vote by Opening Butcher Shop on Industrial Site Before Election

In good news, Wholestone Farms is bringing Sioux Falls a new butcher shop!

The custom butcher shop will allow customers to select a Wholestone farmer and order a pig turned into Wholestone-branded products — from pork chops to pork loins.

…The custom butcher shop will allow customers to select a Wholestone farmer and order a pig turned into Wholestone-branded products — from pork chops to pork loins.

…“The cool part is it’s a way on a small scale to start introducing the great pork products these farmers have, and for those with interest, it’s going to be really easy (to order).” [Wholestone CEO Luke] Minion said. “I’m excited about it. We think it’s a great way to interact with the community in a nontraditional way. A large corporation wouldn’t think this way, but a family farm group will, so I think it’s here to stay” [Jodi Schwan, “Wholestone Farms to Open Custom Butcher Shop at Future Processing Plant Site,” Sioux Falls Business, 2022.07.14].

Hooray for tackling Sioux Falls food deserts with fresh, locally raised and chopped pork—

—oh, wait, that’s not what this new store is about. (The main food desert is in northwest Sioux Falls, and this northeast site won’t be in a walkable neighborhood anyway.) As South Dacola notes, the hastily announced Wholestone Farms butcher shop is just a clever way to escape possible voter rejection of the big porker’s proposed industrial slaughterhouse in northeast Sioux Falls.

On Tuesday, the Sioux Falls city clerk approved a municipal initiative petition calling on Sioux Falls voters to approve a ban on building any new slaughterhouses in city limits. That ban will be on the November ballot. But the initiative includes a grandfather clause that allows any existing slaughterhouse to expand its operations on its current site. While that clause aims to exempt Smithfield Foods and defuse their political opposition, it also opens the door for Wholestone to haul a shed onto its property, butcher a couple hogs before the election, and qualify to expand its little butcher shop into a 1,000-worker pork factory chopping and wienering 6,000,000 pungent piggies a year, no matter what Sioux Falls voters say this November.

The rich Republicans who are trying to keep Wholestone from stinking up Jeff Broin’s house and office and other important parts of Sioux Falls now find themselves in the awkward position of criticizing clever capitalists for subverting democracy:

In a statement, Robert Peterson, treasurer of the Smart Growth Sioux Falls campaign, said:  “This smells like a hastily concocted attempt to thwart the will of over 10,000 concerned citizens of Sioux Falls who believe the city voters should have a say on any future slaughterhouses in Sioux Falls” [Schwan, 2022.07.14].

Yeah, Robert, it does smell. But Minion’s devilish scheme quite neatly guts the intent of your initiative.

Next stop for Peterson and the lawyers trying to stop Wholestone Farms should perhaps be the Sioux Falls Zoning office. The land immediately southeast of the I-229/Benson Road intersection is all zoned I-2, Heavy Industrial. A retail butcher shop doesn’t sound “heavy industrial” to me… but darn! RE1: Limited Retail Employment appears to be a secondary allowed use in such areas, as long as the butcher shop doesn’t exceed 4000 square feet or have a drive-through, loudspeakers, or a tattoo parlor.

Absent a zoning appeal, Peterson and his Republican friends might have to go all Dakota Access Pipeline on Wholestone, rallying protestors to block the road and chain themselves to the trailer when Luke Minion brings in the slaughtershed. Just think: Standing Rock had Water Protectors; Sioux Falls could have Air Protectors! Block Benson Road, picket to drive away workers (boy, I’ll bet you Republicans wish you supported unions now!)….

The Wholestone Farms butcher shop can thwart an affirmative initiative vote if it is “constructed and operating” before the ban would take effect. Per SDCL 9-20-5, municipal initiatives take effect immediately after the official canvass of election results, which has to happen within six business days of the election—or, this year, by November 16. Stage four months of civic action, keep Wholestone Farms from makin’ bacon in town through the week after the election, and the initiative can still stop the big slaughterhouse.

But I suspect picketing isn’t these Republicans’ style. Expect some heavy lawyering instead… although my quick reading of Sioux Falls zoning and the definition of “slaugherhouse” suggests Wholestone Farms has outfoxed its opponents.

14 Comments

  1. Jake 2022-07-15

    I torn here; sadly, if above proves true, the Sioux Falls people who have the most to lose (long-time near by property owners, etc.) and voters who’d rather have such a huge industrial giant located outside the city limits will be stymied by the legal beagles of that company’s actions prior to the election. This company has only one serious goal-to make its stockholders $$$ by sticking a middle finger at the public and killin’ hogs. Greed…..

  2. Bonnie B Fairbank 2022-07-15

    My only experience with a local slaughterhouse was with the Black Hills Meat Company in Hot Springs, inconveniently located at 1041 N River Street. SD DOT has torn up much of US 385 throughout Hot Springs and parts of Fall River County. Anyway, this is not germane to my tale.
    I went there to buy (not beg) trimmed beef fat from beef carcasses so I could slowly render the fat over my wood stove into tallow to make suet for our over wintering birds.
    This happened in either 2015 or 2016; I was immediately yelled at by the two large butchers I saw because they said the beef was slaughtered for local ranchers and had not been USDA inspected. I was momentarily speechless (yeah, I know – no laughing) and then I said “but you’re just throwing the fat on the floor; I saw you. I SAID I’d buy it.”
    Don’t be arguing with no big, fat butchers with sharp knives, bad tempers, and possibly rustled cattle.

  3. jim 2022-07-15

    If the vote goes as I expect, they will have to thwart the will of over 75% of Sioux Falls to pull that off.

    Any fair reading of the ballot measure would include “intent”. The intent of the measure is to stop new slaughterhouses. Not small butcher shops established for the sole purpose of subverting that very same vote.

    But wow. Undermining the will of the people is a frequent objective lately.

  4. Mark Anderson 2022-07-15

    Just look at what meaning pork has become. This isn’t far off.

  5. Bonnie B Fairbank 2022-07-15

    Jim: Undermining the “will of the people” has ALWAYS been a favorite passtime of the ruling class in ‘Merica.

  6. P. Aitch 2022-07-15

    Any new business that deals with human food must have numerous inspections and numerous permits to open. Inspections and permits are easily delayed, slowed down, and sometimes the applications just get lost.

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-07-16

    Bonnie, it puzzles me that any businessmen would turn away an opportunity to turn waste into profit. And why did they rbing up USDA inspection when you made clear you weren’tpurchasing the fat for human consumption?

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-07-16

    Jim, would an argument about intent hold up in court? We can certainly tell that the petitioners’ intent is to stop Wholestone, but they can’t write a special law targeting a single business. They thus had to draft a general law prohibiting any new slaughterhouse. But they didn’t specify what size slaughterhouse, and the Sioux Falls ordinance definition of slaughterhouse—”A facility for the slaughtering and processing of animals and the refining of their byproducts”—doesn’t specify size or kill quantity. So as written, this ordinance expresses an intent to forbid any new slaughterhouse, from the biggest industrial facility imaginable to a tiny mom-and-pop operation that processes one or two head a week on site. Worse (for those wanting to defend the original intent), the grandfather clause as written applies to “any slaughterhouse constructed and operating before the effective date of this section….” What the sponsors meant appears not to align with the plain language they actually put before voters.

    The grandfather clause refers to “expansion or alteration”. Maybe the sponsors can argue that turning a butcher shop into a factory slaughterhouse is not an expansion or alteration but a transformation. It would be kind of like (pure analogy, not legal argument) the second argument Kristi Noem made against Amendment A, that it was so extensive that it did not merely amend the constitution but revised it, thus requiring a different process. But the ordinance definition of slaughterhouse still gets in the way: a butcher shop expanded from killing a couple critters a week to thousands is still a slaughterhouse. And the initiative doesn’t cap the scope of any expansion or alteration.

    But hey, why should I lawyer for free for the rich Republicans pushing this initiative? They’ve got money and brains—they need to figure it out! ;-)

  9. Bonnie B Fairbank 2022-07-16

    Cory, I simply cannot answer your questions. I went there with the best of cash and intentions, and left abruptly and scared; unsurprisingly, I’ve not been back since.
    Maybe the butchers were just having a bad hair day, but, upon discussing the whole weird encounter later with friends, we decided there was something “not quite right” going on. Stolen beef was the only thing we could think of, but how the h*ck would I know?
    A mystery to this day.

  10. Nick Nemec 2022-07-16

    Why are the Wholestone Farms people so intent on building within the city limits? Isn’t there some location outside city limits that would reduce the stench in the city but still provide Wholestone with a location near enough to whatever benefits the Sioux Falls location would have provided?

  11. Scott Ehrisman 2022-07-16

    People in Central SF have been tolerating the stench of Smithfields for decades. Where were these well intentioned hypocrites when it comes to closing down a facility that stinks, makes our namesake look like a toilet, violates environmental laws, owned by communist Chinese and treats its union employees like dirt?

    A much better petition would be to close Smithfields for good.

    Everyone knows this is about a luxury housing development planned by the Ethanol mogul.

    As for zoning, good luck. The mayor’s office and council have done very little because their hands are tied. Due to Shape Places, this area is zoned correctly for killing hogs, and on top of that, WF owns the property. All the city can do is grant building permits, they have no real power to stop it.

    I figured all along that WF had a trick up their sleeve.

    I have told people the best way to stop new packing plants is to stop eating meat.

  12. jim 2022-07-16

    “I don’t want to fight. I’ve said that all along,” Wholestone CEO Luke Minion said. “I just want a project, and this is a path we identified and think it’s very legally appropriate, and we feel good about it.” (siouxfalls.business)

    Wow. They really don’t give a pig’s poo what the community thinks.

  13. jim 2022-07-16

    I see your point, Cory. Who knows what the courts would do.

  14. WillyNilly 2022-07-18

    WF seems to have missed the class in B-school where they talked about community relations and gaining support from neighbors. They’re assuring that any future steps in their development will be fought tooth and nail.

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