The owners of a meat processing plant in Sigourney have decided to drop their plans to slaughter horses. Animal rights groups have protested and a federal judge last week issued a temporary restraining order against the Iowa company and another in New Mexico, which both planned to open slaughter houses for horses.

Keaton Walker, co-founder of Responsible Transportation in Sigourney, says he doesn’t want wait for legal action — so the facility will be used to process beef. “We have 18 people ready to get to work here,” Walker says.

“We have a tremendous facility. Right now, we’re looking for strategic partners to both sell our high quality beef and partner with us on the sourcing side as well.” Walker’s company received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in July to slaughter horses for meat to be shipped overseas.

Animal rights groups filed lawsuits, claiming the USDA failed to conduct the necessary environmental review before authorizing the facilities. Walker says Responsible Transportation will be a beef-only operation.

“We’re making some improvements to the facility right now. The horse processing layout if very similar to a cattle processing facility,” Walker says. “We’re in a good position there — there are just a few pieces of equipment we need to purchase to be able to put out a high quality product.”

The facility in Sigourney covers 50,000 square feet. Walker expects the operation will be able to process 200 to 300 head of cattle per day.