A small stamp on packages of beef with the words “South Dakota Certified Beef” was supposed to be the gold star of the beef industry, but the South Dakota Certified Beef program has floundered in its eight years of existence and the Aberdeen packing plant’s recent declaration of bankruptcy may be the nail in the program’s coffin.

Governor Mike Rounds proposed the Certified Beef program as a way of promoting South Dakota beef as a premium item. Only beef that had passed a series of regulations could obtain the certification. Rounds hoped this program would create a larger, more enthusiastic market for South Dakota beef, allowing the beef industry to raise prices in respect to the higher-quality product.

Yet this plan has fallen short of its potential. Out of 4 million cattle in South Dakota, only 16,386 head have been enrolled by farmers and ranchers into this program, and only 500 head have completed the program and received the South Dakota Certified Beef label in the market.

Rounds still remained hopeful. Earlier this month, he said, “I think its time will come.”

A recent consumer trend may be the part of the solution that Rounds envisions. The Certified Beef sticker contains a code that allows buyers to trace the meat’s journey from the pasture to the grocery store. Consumers’ increasing concern for transparency about the “before life” of meat is thought to bolster the demand for South Dakota Certified Beef.

But demand might be easier to increase than supply now that the Aberdeen packing plant filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  As a part of the program’s regulations, the cattle eligible for the South Dakota Certified Beef label must be born, fed and processed in South Dakota. Presently, because of the lack of a large packing plant, most cattle are shipped to Omaha, Nebraska or Sioux City, Iowa for processing, exempting them from the program. Read more here.

The revitalization of the Aberdeen packing plant was hoped to revive the program, yet the plant’s recent bankruptcy filing will likely hamper this dream. A Chapter 11 bankruptcy does allow for the reorganization of a business so that another business can purchase it, but Todd Wilkinson, South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association Vice President, says the plant’s declaration of bankruptcy may be the end of the program. Read more here.