The recent disruptions in the livestock product supply chain due to COVID-19 has raised awareness of the American public to the importance of the local food supply chain.
Because of this, a new meat processing program is being developed to encourage more people to pursue a career in meat processing in Montana.
For the past several years, Miles Community College (MCC) has been hoping to develop a certificate that can offer a journeyman certificate in meat cutting.
Kim Gibbs, agricultural instructor, says MCC, the Montana Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) and Montana Meat Processors Association have teamed up to make a meat processing certificate/degree a reality.
“When COVID-19 hit, we realized that people start starting to be concerned where their meat came from, where their food comes from,” said Gibbs. “The Montana Farm Bureau got in contact with Montana Meat Processors Association and MCC about this program, and we started the development of the program."
"One of the unique things about the program is you'll have your core classes and then we’ll do internships at processing facilities across the state of Montana," she added.
Montana meat processors are also excited to help students grow their skills in meat cutting. Brian Engle of Pioneer Meats in Big Timber explained why.
“I think it's extremely important for the student and for the facility,” said Engle. “It gives the student a chance to experience it hands-on and it gives the facilities and the processors an opportunity to experience the students and see what their abilities and capabilities are and are going to be in the future.”
The Montana Farm Bureau Federation has played a very important role in getting this meat processing program to the finish line by helping to secure the funding. MFBF executive vice president John Youngberg says the program is important to both producers and consumers.
“The big thing was Miles City had the curriculum put together,” said Youngberg. “They tried to get this before and couldn't secure funding for it. So, our role, as we saw it was to try and secure some funding."
"We realized that there was some COVID-19 funding out there. We went to several sources here in the state. The governor had some money available and we were able to secure some. We’re still working on some more funding to try and keep this a sustainable program.”
The next step to the MCC one-year program is to gauge student interest with the longer-reaching goal to have the course offered as a two-year program focusing on the business end of running a small processing facility which includes learning about regulations and economics.
Those interested in the course should contact Kim Gibbs, agricultural instructor, Miles Community College, email@example.com or call 406-874-6100.