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Meating standards

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A view from the east side of the building shows cattle pens and an expanded parking lot.

Thanks to a state grant, Bolivar businessman Thane Kifer’s Fair Play Fine Meats venture has a fresh look and is nearly ready to open. 

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Fair Play Fine Meats on West 3rd Street is pictured from the west in September 2020.

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Fair Play Fine Meats on West 3rd Street is pictured from the west in early January 2021.

Kifer purchased the building on West 3rd Street in Fair Play several years ago with plans for a farm-to-table meat processor. Late last year, the Bolivar developer started work on a renovation to bring the structure — originally built in 1973 — into the 21st century. 

It’s now about 90% finished, Drew Kifer, a managing director of Thane Kifer’s Pinecone Holdings, said on Wednesday, Jan. 13. Part of that preparation also includes continuing to build the business’ supply chain. 

“If we needed to, we could begin processing animals tomorrow,” he said. “However, because of COVID-related manufacturing delays, we’re waiting on several key components that have been on backorder. With all those tools and interior parts in place, we could process at capacity by February.”

Thane Kifer previously told the BH-FP the business could process up to about 21 head of cattle each week. It’s set to employ around five people. 

Before that can begin, though, the building had to undergo a widespread renovation, Drew Kifer said. 

The structure now sports a new red roof in place of its aged shingles. A parking lot with room for trailers has replaced the grass lot that previously surrounded the building, and cattle pens now flank the east side of the structure. 

Steel-walled additions show the Kifers expanded the building’s footprint to add more workspace, refrigerated rooms and even a small retail space.

The retail space could be open once a week, Drew Kifer said. 

The vast changes were funded, at least in part, by a $200,000 state grant the venture received last year. 

Missouri Department of Agriculture spokesperson Sami Jo Freeman confirmed in a Friday, Jan. 8, email Fair Play Fine Meats had received the funds.

According to an MDA news release, Missouri Meat and Poultry Processing Grant, created in an effort to quickly increase food supply chain resilience, allocated $20 million in CARES Act funds to meat and poultry establishments that employ fewer than 200 people. 

Approved projects will aim to increase food supply resilience by increasing livestock and poultry processing capacity and promote worker safety as a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Grant fund eligible expenses include, but weren’t limited to, capital improvements, utility upgrades, livestock intake and storage equipment, processing equipment, packaging and handling equipment and employee testing strategies. 

“Every part of our food system was challenged during COVID-19,” Missouri Director of Agriculture Chris Chinn said in the release. “These funds will be put to work in our local communities to address the unmet needs of our small business community, benefiting both producers and consumers.”

Freeman said Fair Play Fine Meats specified its plans to expand the building’s footprint to modernize the facility in its application.

“If awarded grant funds, the proceeds would enable facility reconfiguration and purchase of equipment necessary to reactivate it as a state inspected beef slaughter and processing facility with an annual output of 860,000 pounds of beef, all of which is instrumental to the food supply,” the application states. 

Drew Kifer said the venture’s status as a state-inspected facility is key. A state official must be present to ensure the meat processing is done cleanly and humanely every day.

“That individual may not be here the whole day, but it’s important to note that they’re going to be here,” he said. “That’s how you know that our meat is 100% compliant with all health and safety and animal welfare standards. It’s the Missouri equivalent of a USDA seal of inspection.”

That, too, was key in the venture’s grant application. 

“Polk County and its surrounding area is home to many family cattlemen whose operations go back generations,” the application states. “Providing an option to keep their business local will drive economic growth in the region. FPFM intends to purchase cattle from local farmers and sell the beef to local restaurants and markets, thereby helping to raise the sale price of cattle to the farmers, and lower the cost of beef to consumers.”

Branding, too, is important to the business, Drew Kifer said, which plans to utilize its own delivery truck to ensure each cut of meat is kept at the proper temperature all the way to its destination. 

“Fair Play Fine Meats is a label we put on a product we’re proud of,” he said. “We’re proud of this meat, and we’re proud of where it comes from, which is right here in southwest Missouri.”

Fair Play mayor David Vincent did not respond to multiple requests for comment. 

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