Cattle Wars: Amid Lawsuit, Washington’s Easterday Ranches Sells Feed Property To Tyson Competitor

Easterday's "North Lot" is one of the largest concentrated cattle feeding operations in Washington. It was sold Jan. 22 to AB Livestock, a Tyson competitor. Courtesy of Franklin County, Wash.
Easterday's "North Lot" is one of the largest concentrated cattle feeding operations in Washington. It was sold Jan. 22 to AB Livestock, a Tyson competitor.

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In a deepening cattle war, Easterday Ranches, Inc. has sold its so-called “North Lot” property in Franklin County, Washington, to a beef competitor of Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc.

As the public media Northwest News Network reported Wednesday, Tyson recently filed a suit against Washington-based Easterday Ranches seeking to get a neutral third party to take over the business until accounts could be settled. It came after Easterday allegedly made up hundreds of thousands of cattle on paper and fictitiously fed them, costing Tyson more than $225 million.

But now, in a twist, Easterday Ranches has sold its major feedlot property in Franklin County known as the “North Lot” to a competitor: AB Livestock of Boise, Idaho. 

Big swath of farmland

The land is approximately 1,500 acres. It’s a massive feedlot with adjacent irrigated and dry farmland spanning multiple sections. It sold for $16 million dollars, according to the Franklin County’s Assessor’s Office. 

AB Livestock is a division of Agri Beef Co, based in Boise. Agri Beef co-owns Washington Beef, a competitive beef packer based in Toppenish, Washington. 

The move effectively means Easterday Ranches sold its property — where some of the 54,000 Tyson cattle resided under Easterday’s ownership — to a direct competitor of Tyson.

The Tyson Fresh Meats plant in Wallula, Washington, near Pasco. CREDIT: Anna King/N3

The Tyson Fresh Meats plant in Wallula, Washington, near Pasco. CREDIT: Anna King/N3

“We were not aware the sale was completed when we filed our requests with the court, however, the news does not change our position on the need for a court-appointed receiver to take control of the remaining assets of Easterday Ranches,” Tyson said in an email Thursday to the Northwest News Network. AB Livestock acquired the smaller of two feedlots owned by Easterday Ranches on Jan. 22. The property is a 25,000-head lot located near Eltopia, Washington. AB Livestock did not buy the Tyson cattle or feed stocks on the property, nor did AB Livestock buy another 35,000-head cattle feedlot located near Kennewick that remains under Easterday Ranches. 

Giants of beef business

Agri Beef is known for producing brands including Snake River Farms, Double R Ranch and St. Helens. The company says the acquisition plays a strategic role in its commitment and vision for growth.

“This acquisition provides AB Livestock the opportunity to increase its business with local Northwest suppliers, while reducing reliance on cattle supplies from Canada,” said Matt Buyers, President of AB Livestock in a press release. “It also dramatically reduces our overall carbon foot-print as it brings an additional source of fed-cattle supply much nearer to our Washington processing facility.”

Easterday Ranches makes up 2% of Tyson’s total beef nationally, but a much larger, non-disclosed portion of the beef processed at the Tyson plant near Pasco. That Tyson plant is largely known for making Wendy’s beef patties. 

Without a steady supply of cattle ready for slaughter and processing, the Tyson plant outside of Pasco can’t run efficiently.

It won’t be easy if Tyson wants to get its cattle off Easterday’s former land. Cattle experts say you can only fit about 30 to 35 cattle per semi load. Then, Tyson would need the proper infrastructure and state permits to hold that many cattle on another property.

If Tyson chose to build its own nearby feedlot, it might need permits. In Washington, concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, are not allowed to discharge pollution to surface or groundwater under state and federal law.

Timeline:

Easterday is a multiple-generation family-owned business. It’s taken several hits in recent weeks.

  • Discovery: Tyson said it found out about a “missing” 200,000 fake head of cattle from Easterday Ranches in December;
  • Tragedy: Family patriarch, Gale Easterday, died Dec. 10 in a head on collision in Pasco;
  • Sale: Easterday Ranches recorded the sale of its “North Lot” property on Jan. 22;
  • Suit: Tyson Fresh Meats filed suit in Franklin County Superior Court against Easterday Ranches on Jan. 25. 

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Goose Gap Farm is one of several large swaths of farmland that are up for sale in a major auction in the bankruptcy of Easterday Farms and Easterday Ranches. CREDIT: Anna King/N3

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