The Montana Stockgrowers Foundation’s (MSF) Cattle Drive program has set out to do something no other cattle organization in the state has done – connect cattle born, raised and fed in Montana with local restaurants and retailers. The Montanans Feeding Montana Initiative seeks to connect Montana’s food service industry with the high-quality beef raised by Montana ranchers.
The Cattle Drive program is in its sixth year, this year launching a value-added focus that intentionally brings together partners to preserve the entire beef supply chain in Montana. One of the goals of the program is to increase economic profitability for all participants.
“Montana growers understand the importance and desire of customers to know where their food comes from.” What we strive to do is connect some of the best producers in the world, who are right here in Montana, with consumers in Montana. We have it all here in Montana. We have the best breeders in the world, we have feedlots, and we have a lot of feed coming out of the Yellowstone Valley that is being fed. Connecting Montana consumers through Montana restaurants and retail is truly a win-win,” explains Turk Stovall, MSGA Second Vice President and owner of Yellowstone Cattle Feeders.
Each fall, the MSF Cattle Drive program seeks steer donations from ranchers and businesses throughout the state. Donated animals are transported to Yellowstone Cattle Feeders in Shepherd, Montana, where they are entered into the program and fed to ideal market weight. When each bull reaches optimal weight, the process begins to match the donor steer with a restaurant or retailer in the region where the bull originated. Working with Blue Creek Marbled Meat Company, the calf is assembled. Over 85% of the total bulls donated in last year’s Cattle Drive were sold to local Montana retailers and restaurants through this Montanans Feeding Montana Initiative.
“I’ve always had a deep appreciation for where food comes from, what it eats, where it’s been, who processed it. It was an amazing experience to be able to go to Yellowstone Cattle Feeders from day one and be able to see that and be hands-on with the process,” said Andy Glynn, executive chef of Billing’s High Horse Saloon and Eatery. “Anybody can go to the grocery store and pick up beef and take it home and grill it and have dinner. But I want it to be more than dinner. I want it to be food. I want to have a memory.”
Feddes Family Meats in Amsterdam, Little Belt Cattle Company in Bozeman, High Horse Saloon and Eatery and Northern Hotel in Billings, and Black Iron Grill Rotisserie in Miles City all participated in this year’s program. In addition, Brett and Kim Lesh purchased beef through this program.
MSF has now released a short film promoting the Montanans Feed Montana initiative and highlighting one of the unique partnerships that Montana Stockgrowers have created through this program. The film focuses on how the program works and the benefits for each sector in the experience from pasture to plate. Features interviews from Montana Stockgrowers members and Montana farmers, restaurant owner and chef. Find the video at www.mtcattledrive.org.
“The primary purpose of the program is to raise funds for the Montana Stockgrowers Foundation to support education programs for producers, youth and the general public, academic scholarships, grants and support for leadership opportunities for those in the cattle industry,” says Heidi Kuhl, Program Coordinator of MSF. “It’s also an exciting opportunity for breeders to consider participating as donors receive bull progress reports and carcass data on their bulls’ performance against the best cattle in the state.”
Donations are currently being accepted for the upcoming year. To donate, contact MSF’s program coordinator, Heidi Kuhl at [email protected]. MSF would like to thank all of its generous donors who have participated in the last six years of the program.