With the need to process local meat at an all-time high and a workforce to help, Montana Farm Bureau, Miles City Community College and the Montana Meat Processors Association looked to develop a meat cutting course. After establishing a plan, the next step was to seek funding to make the program a reality. MCC applied for a Montana Meat Processing Infrastructure Grant and received $117,000 that will be used for developing a workforce for Montana Meat Processors.  

The program is one year with the meat processing classes 7.5 weeks using remote and on-line education. 

“For instance, if a student lives in Columbus, they don’t have to come to Miles City, they can live at home and attend classes online,” noted MCC Ag Instructor Kim Gibbs. Students will need to complete a seven-week internship working at three to four plants in the state. To date, Gibbs has received commitments to host interns from Pioneer Meats, Big Timber; Cowboy Meats, Forsyth; Lower Valley Meats, Kalispell; Powder River Meats, Fallon and Ryan’s, Jordan. 

The 29-credit course work includes classes on food safety and HCAAP, business math, elementary technical writing and biology, in addition to the hands-on internships. 

“Of course, MCC would have loved to build their own plant, but that would literally have been a million dollars. It made sense to pair students with the small processing plants across the state,” Gibbs added. “Really, it can be regarded as a seven-week job interview.”

The four-level internship program will start with Level 1 basics such as sharpening knives and cutting meat and learn the different cuts of meat.  Level 4 will include running equipment, working on the kill floor and knowing all the steps in the process.

The meat processing classes kick off October 28, and anyone interested in the class can still get enrolled. Greg Gianforte participated in a round table discussion on the trades and pledged to offer scholarship money from the Gianforte Family Foundation to students interested in this program.

“This is a certificate course you can complete and within a year be earning $25,000-$45,000, and with many of these smaller plants changing hands, having experience in the meat cutting business could very well lead to owning a profitable business in one of Montana’s small towns,” Gibbs noted.

This article was originally published in the Fall 2020 edition of the Spokesman. See more original content at https://mfbf.org/News/Spokesman.

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