From Northern Ag Network

Montana Farmers Union has received a $150,000 Montana Meat Processing Infrastructure Grant (MMPIG) from federal CARES Act relief funds to purchase a mobile harvest unit. Montana FU, in partnership with FU groups in four other states who will also contribute to the purchase, will operate the facility as a cooperative to expand meat processing capacity. The other states include North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Wisconsin and Farmers Union Enterprise (FUE).

The cooperative will benefit Montana producers and butchers by providing the ability to harvest livestock that will be USDA inspected and for sale. Montana livestock harvest facilities are being over-run and are booked well into 2021, forcing producers to hold onto livestock or ship out-of-state to a corporate monopoly. The bottleneck in the production process became evident during the Coronavirus shut down when consumers discovered meat shortages in grocery stores and consumers started seeking other sources.

Montana Farmers Union is also working with Montana State University-Northern to develop a meat processing curriculum utilizing the Mobile Harvest Unit. The program will be the first ever meat processing curriculum in the country that teaches meat processing from harvest to retail. MSU Northern students who enroll in the program will earn anywhere from a one-year certificate to a bachelor’s degree with a focus on business management and marketing.

These courses will provide opportunities for students to join the meat processing industry as butchers, managers or inspectors. MFU hopes to have the MHU operational by early next spring. MSUN plans to have a curriculum in place by fall semester 2021.


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