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HomeBusinessMontana BusinessRanchers push for Montana-raised cattle in local restaurants

Ranchers push for Montana-raised cattle in local restaurants

In Montana, encountering a couple of cows during the day is a common occurrence. With over 2 million cows spread across the state, it’s evident that Montana, known as Big Sky Country, is a prime location for cattle ranching. What’s intriguing is the growing effort by some ranchers to promote locally-produced beef in Montana’s dining establishments.

Montana stands as a cattle capital, boasting a population of millions of cows. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as of January, Montana had a staggering 2.16 million cows, nearly doubling the state’s human population. However, the question arises: how much of this homegrown beef remains within the Treasure State?

Contrary to popular knowledge, a significant portion of Montana’s cattle finds its way beyond state borders. A seasoned figure in the beef industry, like Stovall, who hails from a fifth-generation Montana ranching family, sheds light on the matter. At Yellowstone Cattle Feeders in Shepherd, a family-run enterprise, thousands of cattle are raised, fed, and processed, embodying a deep connection to the land and a sense of purpose.

Stovall emphasizes the importance of passing down stories through generations, creating a link between the past and the present. It’s not just about producing quality beef; it’s also about nurturing great children and contributing meaningfully to local communities.

This commitment to Montana’s heritage is applauded by the Montana Stockgrowers Association, the oldest livestock producer organization in the state, dating back to 1884. At the annual Montana Stockgrowers Association conference in Billings, the spotlight is on the Montana Stockgrowers Foundation Cattle Drive Program, which aims to connect Montana-born, raised, and fed cattle with local restaurants.

Monty Lesh, a regional director for the Montana Stockgrowers Association, explains the program’s sixth-year initiative, where ranchers donate calves to the foundation. These calves are then transported to Yellowstone Cattle Feeders, fed to an ideal market weight, and subsequently matched with local restaurants or retailers.

One such restaurant participating in the program is the High Horse Saloon in Billings, where owner Reid Pyburn proudly features Montana beef on the menu. Pyburn expresses his belief in Montana beef’s quality, announcing plans for a new steak-driven menu in the coming year, prioritizing locally sourced beef.

For both ranchers and restaurants, the emphasis on local produce is a victory. Stovall encapsulates the sentiment shared by many in Montana, highlighting the joy of taking care of neighbors and ensuring that the bounty stays close to home.

By: Montana Newsroom staff
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