By Tim Leeds
Suzanne Tilleman said there will be a meeting of the Natural Meat Cooperative in Lewistown on May 25.
Tilleman, the director of MCDC (the Montana Cooperative Development Center) at Montana State University-Northern, said that while the cooperative hasn't started a membership drive, the meeting is open to anyone interested in learning more about the value-added beef co-op and the principals of value-added marketing.
She said the Intermountain Meat Company out of Idaho Falls, Idaho, will be at the meeting to discuss the possibilities of cooperation between it and the co-op. Tilleman said some of the issues slated for discussion at the meeting include trying to market the product in the European and Asian markets; the value of marketing "natural beef," which has some restrictions on what can or can't be used in raising the cattle, and the value of owning the product from the beginning to the final marketing.
"The intent is to allow ranchers to own their product down the food chain, down the value added food chain, to reach the retail market and capture some of that money," Tilleman said.
Tilleman said the co-op is seeking to enter national and international markets, which generally have too large a demand for smaller co-ops to handle. She said they are forming a larger co-op in order to meet that greater demand. The Natural Meat Cooperative currently has members from about five western plains states, she said, including two directors from Montana.
Tilleman said the co-op is pursuing natural beef because research shows a much greater growth potential in that field. She said the research shows that market is growing at about 30 percent each year, compared to 3 percent growth in the traditional beef market.
Tilleman said the meeting, which will be at the Yogo Inn in Lewistown at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, May 25, is being sponsored by the Natural Meat Cooperative with assistance from the MCDC. She said this is one of first meetings of the cooperative, and it will be followed up with other public meetings. Tilleman said there will certainly be additional meetings if the joint venture with Intermountain Meat proves to be a sound business move.