In the aftermath of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, disruptions in the meat supply chain caused bare shelves and suppressed cattle prices across the United States. Major meat processor closures exposed vulnerabilities, prompting a visionary response from local meat producers around Havre, Montana. Walt Schweitzer, president of the Montana Farmers Union and Director of Montana Premium Processing Co-op, started Montana Premium Processing Cooperative (MPPC) to bring more resilience and independence to Montana's meat producers.
A Collaborative Journey
The two-year journey began with the purchase of a mobile harvest unit from Mike Callicrate and the formation of a steering committee tasked with crafting the cooperative's bylaws. Building a meat processing co-op from scratch presented challenges, but the team drew inspiration from other processors, learning from failures and adapting their approach. Support from Farmer’s Union Processing (a partnership between Montana Farmers Union and Farmers Union Enterprise), which leases the land to MPPC, Montana ranchers, the Montana Department of Ag, and the USDA’s Meat and Poultry Processing Technical Assistance program (MPPTA).