Bear Paw Meats gets Visit From Governor Greg Gianforte
November 10, 2021
Montana Governor Greg Gianforte is currently in the middle his 56 County tour and recently stopped by Bear Paw Meats in Chinook for a visit.
The Governor has made it a point to visit each Montana County and get a first-hand look at what's happening locally. Gianforte has done this for several years, as a United States Representative, while campaigning for Governor and now as Governor.
The meat processing industry was heavily impacted by the Covid 19 Pandemic and questions arose on many fronts about the integrity of the industry. Consolidation into larger plants being part of it. Gianforte has posed many questions about the industry and stated that his office is looking to see if any laws have been broken and that he has sent letters to the U.S. Department of Agriculture asking them to address these concerns.
Through the process of helping the industry navigate through the pandemic, several grants were being offered to help small meat packers in particular stay afloat. One of those plants that received a grant was none other than Bear Paw Meats.
The local processing plant has been a fixture in the community for decades. Through the years it has went through a number of owners and provided steady work. High School youth often earned a little extra working after school got out.
For decades the Roth Family operated the plant. Max Hofeldt then followed. Chuck and Theresa Terry ran the plant for a number of years after that before selling. Dexter and Karla Buck took over the facility in 2006 and have grown the business into what it is today.
Bear Paw Meats is small by comparison to meet plants in other parts of the state, but their reach is long and their impact to the community is significant. They maintain a steady staff that provides quality service at its headquarters in Chinook, where the product is processed, as well as its outlet store in Havre. In addition, Bear Paw Meats provides an online ordering service that delivers product all over the state. Many local restaurants serve Bear Paw Meats Steak and Burger.
Dexter and Karla's daughter Ashley Callahan is the Manager of the facility and took Governor Gianforte on a tour of the facility during his visit.
Ashley oversees the operation and has expanded the service the facility provides exponentially. Having the Governor visit was a great opportunity to showcase the plant, show what it has done with the money received through the Grant and talk about the future of the industry.
"The pandemic brought the broken meat processing system to light," said Callahan. "We have increased our capacity by updating our electrical system. We also updated equipment to improve our efficiency on our ready to eat products."
The building is decades old and was in much need of these updates. Bear Paw Meats has expanded greatly in recent years in the product line they offer. All kinds of processed meat products are available including a variety of sausages, jerky, specialty meats and cuts. New equipment was needed to do that, and Bear Paw Meats heavily invested in improving that process.
"Governor Gianforte discussed our current production system, and our availability to scale. We talked time frames, and some roadblocks we are facing," added Callahan. She went on to say that his visit was very appreciated, "Governor Gianforte was very kind, and genuine about his concern with generating more meat production in our state. Getting to visit with Governor Gianforte was a huge privilege."
The Bucks have a farm to table operation, their son Travis and his wife Jenny manage Bear Paw Live Stockyard. In 2007 the Bear Paw Farms partnership was formed. This operation grows corn, barley and alfalfa that is used for the feedlots for Bear Paw Meats, creating that true farm to table operation.
"Agriculture is a large part of our community, and way of life. There is a 'trickle down affect' when competition is eliminated," stated Callahan. "Competition is a GOOD thing. We need it. Not only do I believe in small processing plants, but elevators, seed companies, feedlots, stockyards, trucking companies, grocery stores, and any other part of the food chain."