Cattlemen’s Heritage Beef Stakes Claim in Council Bluffs

Chad Tentinger of Cattlemen’s Heritage Beef Co. is initiating a new way to buy cattle and sell beef to consumers from the company’s new Council Bluffs plant. 

By Steve Dinnen

The 132-acre site for a new meatpacking plant outside Council Bluffs promises to be a game-changer in the state of agriculture. Ranchers in Iowa and Nebraska are lining up to supply the facility with as many as 2,000 head of cattle a day. A key investor, Karis Capital, has committed $150 million to the project that could cost $500 million. And now the developer, Des Moines-based Cattlemen’s Heritage Beef Co., is in the final phase of rounding up accredited individual and family office investors for operating capital once operations get under way.

Cattlemen’s Heritage founder and project director Chad Tentinger envisions the firm as a new way to buy cattle and sell processed beef. To attract ranchers, they’ll be paid the “boxed beef cutout” value for cattle they provide; it’s a pricing system that’s less volatile than they normally would receive from other packers. At the grocery, Cattlemen’s Heritage will be marketed under its own brand, and every steak will carry a QR code that shoppers can scan to see where the meat originated.

“It’s full traceability, from pasture to plate,” said Tentinger, a fourth-generation cattleman from northwest Iowa.

“Shackle space” will help keep the company running once it starts to receive cattle. A shackle is the device to which a cow carcass is affixed as it moves along a processing line, and Cattlemen’s Heritage will sell shackle space to both ranchers and outside investors. These sales to outside investors are basically medium-term notes, with the shackles used as a denominator. Buy a shackle or two (or thousands, more likely) for three years and the company will pay back your money with what works out to be an end-of-year return of 11.87%. Longer investment periods carry higher returns.

“We guarantee to buy back these shackles with premiums,” Tentinger said. He also noted that this is
“first in line” money. “You get paid before the banks get paid back.”

Though Iowa raises a lot of cattle, it lacks enough processing facilities, so hundreds of thousands of head are sent out of state every year, which is costly to ranchers. This plant should ease that problem, said Ernie Goss, an economics professor at Creighton University. He said it could generate as much as $8 billion in economic gain for Iowa by 2028.

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