Food for Thought: Innovative partnership weaves local cattle production into the Montanan culinary experience

In Montana, a unique program between beef producers and local restauranteurs is forging a culinary connection between agriculture and consumers that is feeding both the bodies and minds of diners.

The Montana Stockgrowers Foundation’s (MSF) Cattle Drive program is pioneering an initiative that sets out to match locally raised and fed cattle with discerning consumers. The “Montanans Feeding Montana Initiative” is an innovative endeavor that aims to bridge the gap between Montana’s food service industry and the high-quality beef produced by local ranchers.

Initiated five years ago, the MSF’s Cattle Drive program originated from a desire to empower Montana producers. The goal was to allow them to participate in a steer feed-out, gaining insights into factors such as gain and carcass value while fostering a sense of camaraderie. The program has evolved into a unique opportunity for Montana ranchers to showcase the best steer in the state.

How It Works

Donors contribute steers that are delivered to central pickup points across Montana and then processed at Yellowstone Cattle Feeders’ yard in Shepard. This involves the standard procedures of shots, identification, and branding with the Montana Stockgrowers Foundation brand. The program’s success lies in increasing participation each year, funding more programs, and providing individual data to livestock owners.

The “Montanans Feeding Montana Initiative” strives to connect local restaurants and retailers with high-quality beef raised by Montana ranchers. The program aims to add value to livestock, providing individual data on feedlot performance, cattle grading, and rail yield. This connection ensures that Montana consumers have access to locally sourced, top-tier beef.

Local processors and restaurants are joining the initiative, generating excitement and support. Montana chefs, like those in steakhouses, are eager to embrace the opportunity to work with the best that local ranchers provide. The program allows chefs to be part of the process, ensuring that the story of locally sourced beef becomes a crucial part of the dining experience.

For chefs and restaurant owners, this project is more than just serving a meal. It is about creating a memory. Being able to trace the journey of the beef from Montana ranches to local restaurants enhances the dining experience. The transparency of knowing the people who raised the cattle and supporting the local community amplifies the significance of each meal.