SUN RIVER/HIGHWOOD — Beef retailers in North Central Montana said they have seen an increase in demand despite inflation and rising costs, which has plagued the nation for the past couple of years.
89 Farm and Ranch LLC is a newly licensed beef retailer in Sun River. Owner Greg Thompson said he's noticed a high demand, specifically for burgers, steaks, and roasts.
Thompson said, "Just in the calf market, there's a high demand. Everything's shaping up to where I think next year, these big packers are going to end up having to hustle. I think there's going to be a shortage of beef going to market next year because of all the people who have had to sell out or cut back due to the drought. The market is shaping up to where there could be quite a high demand next year."
Thompson believes an increasing amount of people are encouraged to buy local.
Thompson said, "everybody that's came here expressed that it's really important to know where their beef is coming from. Some people want grass-fed, and some people don't like the taste of grass-fed, so I have 50 percent corn, and 50 percent grain-fed that I haul to the processing facility.
Malek Angus Ranch owner Ty Malek said he’s also seen a big surge in demand for local beef.
“I feel like the beef demand has been good, but you can see that prices are going up," Malek said. "We have to raise our prices all the time because our prices in our butcher point keeps going up. The processing and transportation of these cattle is just getting higher and higher with the fuel pricing. Everyone says it's down a dollar, but I say it's up three. Cost of doing business is so much more than it used to be, so the price of beef has to go up."
Malek said he believes people are eating out less and choosing chicken and pork as their go-to due to being a cheeper source of protein. Malek offers his products to various restaurants across Montana, adding that it's a challenge, especially providing steaks.
Malek said, "We’ve got way more ground beef business than steak business because an old-timer told me when I started this beef business ‘remember, you’re a burger company before you’re a steak company.’ Everyone sells their steak first, and that should be the thing you sell last because you’ve got to be able to get rid of that burnt ground beef because it’s what you get the most of off the cow.”
MTN also talked with Montana Farmers Union president Walter Schweitzer.
He stated, "Consumers right now are focused more than ever on where their food comes from. They'd really like to buy it locally from their neighbors if they can. This all really elevated during the Covid pandemic, when consumers went to the grocery store and found empty shelves. They started paying more attention. Even though Montana is a huge cattle producing state, we only have the processing capacity to process about 25 to 30-thousand head per year for sale. We found out during the pandemic that we struggled to feed ourselves in Montana. There really has been a high demand. The meat processors around the state are swamped. They're scheduled out a year in advance. The producers who market beef directly to consumers have to schedule an animal to be harvested the day it's born."
Malek Angus Ranch will also be hosting their annual bull sale on March 16th starting at 8am. It will be located at 22700 Highwood Rd, Highwood, MT 59450. For more information, contact: Ty Malek: 406-733-6200
89 Farm and Ranch - Greg Thompson; firstname.lastname@example.org; 406-231-3574
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