Fergus County has a lot of cattle but there aren’t a lot of places to process them, and they're certainly aren’t many places that can send the meat out of Montana.
But just north of Eddie’s Corner, a new meat processing shop called Big Sky Processing & Meats is opening soon to solve that problem.
According to the USDA, Montana has about 250,000 fewer head of cattle and calves than last year.
Even though total cattle numbers are down, Fergus County still has the second-largest number of cattle of the state’s 56 counties, with about 115,000 cattle reported last year.
Soon, they’ll have a USDA inspected slaughterhouse to process beef, thanks to Nicole Wines, who is no stranger to Fergus County.
She’s been in the area for years and is ready to open shop but has been delayed, "we’ve really been struggling. Something that should take four weeks is taking four months."
Because it is a USDA-inspected facility, it can ship products across state lines.
“It allows the ranchers to not travel as far. I’m already getting some calls for October,” Wines said. “Some of these phone calls have been as far as Idaho. I’m originally from south of Livingston and there’s several people in the Livingston area that couldn’t get into Big Timber so I feel it’s going to go pretty good.”
Wines said that Big Timber, Columbus, and Cody, Wyoming are the other closest facilities and by having one right in the middle of the state, it will save time and money for ranchers. It’s all construction for now but everyone involved is excited for what’s coming.
“Central Montana is a good location I feel, for me and for a lot of the ranchers. There’s a lot of cattle in the area," Wines said.
Wines says the slaughter unit will be able to process 10 beef a day, or about 50 sheep, or 30 hogs. She also wants to expand to have more coolers and hold more meat. They are testing the shop's capabilities and processes this week and want to be up and running soon given how much response they’ve gotten.
She will start with about five employees and wants to open up a retail store across from the slaughterhouse.
“It has been a slow process, but we’ve been moving slowly but surely and fixing what needs fixing as we go along. It’s nice here. I’ve been here for about nine months now and everybody is just so nice,” employee Jordyn Hutchens said. “I met Nicole down in Bozeman and she mentioned opening a slaughterhouse and was looking for people. I said if she was willing to teach I’m willing to work and it’s been a great deal.”
Wines says construction will be done in a few weeks and they’ll be completely ready to go within a month. Click here to visit the website.