MPPC Celebrates Progress, Holds Annual Member Meeting
HAVRE – Montana Premium Processing Cooperative celebrated progress on its facility Monday, welcoming people from the community and its members for tours.
The new meat processing facility in Havre is set to begin processing beef, pork, lamb and bison in the coming months.
“It was refreshing to be at a meeting with other producers who all have the same goal to provide a quality meat direct to the consumer,” MFU President Walter Schweitzer said.
MPPC is a producer-focused cooperative that has been formed in partnership with Montana Farmers Union and Farmers Union Industries. The USDA-inspected facility will open new markets to producers.
The project includes a mobile slaughter unit and a remodel of the old Schwan’s building in Havre to eventually process upward of 3,000 head each year.
The facility also creates the opportunity for hands-on training of other butchers, and Montana State University-Northern is working toward the implementation of a meat cutting curriculum.
“For me, the benefit of being a member of a co-op –any member of any co-op – is the ability to kind of control your future. And so what I see as the real value of Montana Premium Processing Cooperative is the ability for the members to directly market and directly control their meat from start to finish,” said Tracy McIntyre with Montana Cooperative Development Center.
MPPC membership elects board members from within their numbers to oversee the operation and maintain an expectation of excellence.
“As much effort that producers put into growing animals, it’s important we do our best processing them,” the facility’s general manager Bill Jones said during a recent tour.
No member will be able to use more than 30 percent of the available slots to make sure members have access to the facility’s services as needed.
Although it isn’t necessary to be a member to access the facility, the co-op’s more than 50 current members get first dibs on hook space.
“We wanted to keep this really grassroots for individuals who are trying to increase the value of their livestock,” Schweitzer said.
Once the Havre facility reaches roughly 2,000 head processed per year, the goal is to begin replicating the model elsewhere in the state. That process would include the mobile slaughter unit leaving Havre for another town to make another facility possible.
“We want a butcher shop in every town so you’re not having to take our animals 150 miles to get them processed,” MFU board member Erik Somerfeld said.
“There should be no reason why Americans aren’t eating American beef,” said Michelle Math, who runs Math Farms with her husband Cody Math.
The co-op provides an avenue for consumers to eat local product, as well as an opportunity for producers to connect their local product with consumers.
“This way we can capture more of what the Packers are getting on the end. And at least the people that we’re selling it to know what they’re getting back,” Cody said.
“We want to expand the operation on the ranch. We want to diversify and not have all our eggs in one basket, and we want to grow something for our future generation, which is the sixth generation on our ranch. We want to have something there for them, and we want them to carry on a legacy that my husband’s great grandparents have started,” Michelle said.
Creating another avenue to help Montana’s producers thrive is an extension of MFU’s cooperative principles, which drive the organization, along with the focus of legislation and education.
“I look forward to when our processing plant is processing and expanding our capacity so that all of our producers are able to market their livestock direct to consumer,” Schweitzer said.
Montana Premium Processing Cooperative is a member-owned cooperative providing USDA certified live-to-package processing for cattle, hog, sheep, and bison to meet the needs of Montana producers and bolster food security by supporting a hoof-to-plate business model for local ranchers. For more information, visit www.mtpremiumprocessing.com.
Montana Farmers Union has worked more than 100 years for family farms, ranches, and rural communities. MFU supports its members through: Strong education programs for both youth and adults, by advocating member-driven policies and legislation at the state and federal level, and cooperation through producer-owned co-ops. For more information, visit www.montanafarmersunion.com.