GREAT FALLS — The Montana Farmers Union is rolling out a new mobile meat processing facility to keep Montana beef local for the benefit of consumers and ranchers alike.
During the 106th Montana Farmers Union Convention in Great Falls, the organization literally “rolled out” the Montana Premium Processing Co-op.
Montana Farmers Union President Walter Schweitzer said the unit will give Montana producers control and retain value over their livestock and provide consumers more options to enjoy Montana beef.
“This processing plant is producer-owned,” Schweitzer explained. “We all got together since we are already selling livestock direct to the market. But you know, we're struggling to get hooks to process our beef. We can't get our animals harvested. So, we joined together to get this plant started.”
The Montana Famers Union is collaborating with MSU-Northern in Havre to operate the processing unit. With the goal of building a strong foundation for more processing statewide.
“This is also going to be a lab for MSU-Northern to utilize to train their students in meat processing,” said Schweitzer. “Because they're going to hopefully start a meat processing curriculum next year. And if we're going to expand our meat processing here in the state of Montana, we're going to need more butchers. We're going to need more inspectors. We're going to need entrepreneurs. That could possibly then open up a butcher shop in your community.”
Jordan rancher Brett Dailey - a Montana Famers Union member and Chair of the Montana Beef Council — said the facility provides more opportunities for ranchers to make a profit but also promote Montana Beef
“If nothing else, it's a great promotional tool for my product,” said Dailey. Being able to get those animals locally to consumers that want it and that have demand for that local product.”
Just how do producers participate in Montana Premium Processing Co-op?
“You can buy a common stock,” said Walter Schweitzer. “This common stock gives you the right to deliver livestock to be harvested. It gives you a voting right to vote for the board of the co-op. And the fee structure is set up by the members. It's a way for livestock, producers to control their own destiny.”
In addition to beef, the processing Facility will be able to harvest hogs, sheep, and bison.
The mobile processing unit will be fully operational at MSU-Northern in Havre this winter.