Feedlot Expansion Ignites Controversy

Missouri residents are worried an expansion project for Valley Oak Steak Company will increase odors. ( Valley Oak Steak Company )

A western Missouri beef company’s expansion plans have ignited a controversy among nearby residents. It’s a battle often found in once-rural communities that are now under the influence of urban sprawl.

The Valley Oaks Steak Co., Lone Jack, MO, located about 30 miles southeast of Kansas City, seeks to expand its cattle feeding and processing operation from the current 900 head to 6,999. Valley Oaks has applied to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources for the permit. Under Missouri rules, only feedlots with 7,000 head or more are required to submit an odor plan.

But odor is precisely what neighbors are worried about. That many cattle, they say, would produce an estimated 13,900 tons of manure each year.

One of Valley Oaks neighbors is Powell Gardens, a 970-acre botanical gardens in Kingsville, MO. Powell Gardens includes a nature trail, wildflower meadows and a woodland chapel used for weddings.

Powell Gardens CEO Tabitha Schmidt told the Kansas City Star, "As a clean air facility, promoting conservation and botanical excellence, we at Powell Gardens are concerned for the future of our gardens and the well-being of citizens that could be affected by this operation."

For their part, Valley Oaks plans to build a “state of the art” feedlot with cattle housed in feeding sheds with open sides. The manure would be collected, dried and applied as fertilizer to adjacent fields.

Valley Oaks plant manager Jake Huddleston told the Warrensburg Daily Star-journal that odor is "a necessary evil" but "we're trying to take care of it as best we can to keep it to a minimum."

"Valley Oaks Steak Company was founded in 2016 with the intent of bringing locally grown beef to the Kansas City area," according to the company's website.

If the state approves Valley Oaks expansion request, the company could begin processing 80 to 100 head of cattle a day in April.