In a first for Montana, the nation’s first federally inspected nonprofit meat processing facility is set to open in the state.
Producer Partnership, located east of Livingston, is unique in that they accept donated animals, process the meat, and then donate it right back to food banks all through the state. They explain:
Depending on cattle prices, producers have two choices when removing a cull animal from the herd: sell it (in most cases) for a very low price, or bury it on the ranch. There is now a third option.
The Producer, a farmer or rancher selects an animal(s) from their herd. This may be a non-calf producing heifer, injured animal, a retiring cow or bull. The Producer contacts one of the dedicated local volunteers offering the donation of the animal to the Partnership.
If the animal meets (Our) strict health and condition criteria, (We) Load the animal and transports it to our federally inspected processing facility. When ready, the animal is processed into hamburger and the Partnership pays the bill. One cow can produce between 350 to 450 pounds of hamburger.
When the frozen hamburger is ready for pickup, the Partnership contacts a local food bank, community center or other approved non-profit agency. The hamburger is either delivered by a Partnership volunteer or picked up by the receiving organization for individual distribution to those with food insecurity. The producer who donated the animal then receives a tax letter to claim their tax credit based on the number of hamburger pounds donated to the food bank.”
President Matt Pierson told NBC news his vision for the company:
The pandemic is really kind of what got us going is, you know, seeing that people were in need, and that, you know, the food banks, especially like in our area, had seen about a 300% increase in the number of people that they were trying to help. So, it was just kind of a way to try to start helping out…The more that we did, the more we got, and it just kind of kept expanding on its own, you know, to the point that we decided that it was time to open our own facility”
Right now the company processes about 15 cows a day, but Pierson plans to make the facility multi-species, from sheep, goats, cows, bison and hogs. Because the facility will be federally inspected for cleanliness and quality, they are able to expand and donate to all sorts of parties, setting a goal of donating 25,000 pounds of beef a month.