A Missoula-based company is trying to create the first large-scale mobile slaughter unit in the state. The owner of the business said the idea is to keep food local in Montana, and save ranchers time and money along the way.
On Thursday, Mark Estep, owner of the Missoula start-up business, Montana Processing Company said processing companies are few and far between in the Treasure state, and this brings a burden to the ranching business.
"There's a lot of waiting time and stress on the animals and traveling to process plant," Estep said.
After working in the restaurant business for years, Estep is trying to start up a USDA licensed, Mobile Slaughter Unit, or MSU, to save farmers the hassle of traveling the state to get their beef processed.
"This is a way of giving ranchers more exposure in the local markets," Estep said.
Estep is working with a company to hold meetings across Western Montana to talk with ranchers, and show them how they could utilize his business. A meeting was held in Hamilton Thursday night. Bitterroot resident of 43-years Allen Bgergo was there. He's president of the Bitter Root RC&D, a group which comes up with plans for social, economic and environmental improvements in the community.
"Think of all the diesel you would save and the extra earnings you would earn for local folks, if you could butcher animals here, and that is done on a small scale, not very big," Bgergo said.
Bgergo said he could see potential for a large-scale butcher operation in the area.
He said, "We have some local processors who do a very good job, but don't have the capacity."
Bgergo said right now only 15% of the food consumed in Montana is produced. In Montana, and the rest is imported. He said MSU's would help keep the meat in Montana.
"When you don't have a market, you depend on the huge operations that bring stuff back in a semi to be sold in super store."
Estep says the MSU's will take cattle, sheep, hogs and possibly bison. He said the unit will travel up to 150 miles around Missoula.
The business is still in the works, so Estep doesn't know exactly which communities he'll serve. The next meeting is probably being held with ranchers in the Bozeman area.