Valley Oaks Steak Co., located near Lone Jack, Mo., has announced that it closing its operations in Johnson County, effective immediately. In making its announcement, the company cited economics as a cause of the shutdown, as well as the backlash that the company received due to its recently announced expansion plans.

The business, which grew to nearly 1,000 cattle two years ago, applied for a permit to expand to nearly 7,000 cattle, reports KMBC News. The company said it would be among the most environmentally friendly animal feeding operations in the country. However, 141 surrounding property owners raised concerns about the expansion and filed a lawsuit. There were also concerns that the expansion would affect nearby Powell Botanical Gardens.

The company’s full statement is as follows:

“It is with profound sadness that, due to economics, we are closing operations of Valley Oaks Steak Company in Johnson County, Missouri.  

“The cattle industry and beef market is dominated by a few large corporations whose operations involve raising and harvesting tens of thousands of cattle daily and are fraught with complex environmental issues ranging from smells, animal waste, and water pollution.   

“When we started Valley Oaks, we designed a local state-of-the-art facility, different from the large-scale industrial agriculture operations that harvest beef for US and export markets.  We planned on being a hoof-to-table local supplier of premium beef, utilizing local businesses and farmers, promoting the sustainable production of beef, and reducing the carbon footprint involved in long supply chains. We created Valley Oaks using modern agricultural techniques, which eliminated environmental issues prevalent with other large beef operations.

“For nearly two years this business model worked. We had approximately 900 cattle at Valley Oaks and, during that time, received no complaints of any environmental concerns.  Based on this success, we applied for a permit to increase our capacity. Valley Oaks employed approximately 80 people and had a USDA inspector’s office on location. Missouri Department of Natural Resource officials who visited and inspected our facility agreed with our approach and the measures we took for protecting our environment.   

“Valley Oaks is a no-discharge operation. All cattle manure produced was timely removed from pens and recycled for use as fertilizer. We offered free fertilizer to local farmers and took active measures to ensure we would not have quantities of manure that would attract flies or produce overwhelming smells. We relied on modern approaches to reduce flies and larvae to avoid the problems existing with antiquated large-scale operations.

“Unfortunately, Valley Oaks became a lightning rod for individuals and organizations opposed to animal agriculture operations. While we understand there were skeptics of our approach, Valley Oaks became a target for groups that used us to advance their own fundraising campaigns. For example, Powell Gardens organized a fear-mongering campaign against our operation – when in reality, Valley Oaks and Powell Gardens are not in the same watershed, nor were their botanical gardens ever in danger of being affected. Powell Gardens publicly claimed flies from our operation would damage vegetation in their gardens. Those claims were false. Science experts concluded that flies which feed on cattle manure are not a species that destroy vegetation, nor do they travel great distances. Furthermore, the species of flies Powell Gardens told the public that would destroy their plants and gardens are attracted only to hog operations, not cattle. Not one single plant-eating fly has ever been shown to exist at our facility.

“In our view, opponents engaged in fear-mongering for their own economic benefit, or simply pre-judged Valley Oaks based on inaccurate information.  Instead of examining the science and visiting our facility to see the reality for themselves, we and our families were made the subject of relentless personal attacks.  Valley Oaks is not a large faceless corporation with unknown and distant directors and shareholders, but is a group of local family members who sought to provide regionally and sustainably-produced beef to the public. Unfortunately, we have been stalked, threatened, and slandered.  Our children have been targeted, bullied and threatened.  Several of our cattle were shot dead in the field, no doubt as a warning to us.  

“We believe in the court system and looked forward to having our day in court, so that we could prove to a jury and the public that we love our community and that our approach to agribusiness was not a nuisance but was environmentally sound, sustainable, and promoted local and regional agriculture. In short, Valley Oaks was a model for how animal agriculture should be conducted. Sadly, the economics of doing so did not work out for us due to the constant barrage of legal battles and extensive marketing efforts needed to counter misinformation.  

“We are closing Valley Oaks Steak Company effective immediately. We would like to thank our customers and the people who supported us over the past few years. We would also like to thank our employees and vendors who worked with us. We would like to thank the many local farmers who availed themselves of free fertilizer. We regret the impact this closing will have on all of them, and for the loss of jobs in rural Missouri – jobs that are already in short supply. For the future of all Missourians, urban and rural, we hope that people will rely on the science of modern agricultural techniques and methods, and not be swayed by persons and organizations who sow seeds of fear and distrust for their own personal gain and profit.    

“With all our best.
Valley Oaks Steak Company, LLC”

Source: Valley Oaks Steak Co., KMBC News