Montana cattle ranches hope to parlay federal aid into larger market share

Jon Tester

Cole Mannix


With a little help from Sen. Jon Tester in the form of $150,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds, a band of local ranchers intends to rustle a larger share of the cattle market away from the nation’s four major meat packing companies.

During a press conference at the downtown Helena office of Old Salt Co-op LLC, Tester touted the contribution of federal dollars to the private business, comprised of five founders across three Montana ranches, as a way to inject more competition into the industry, “expand markets for Montana ranchers and open up opportunities for Montana consumers to eat some of the best meat in the world.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported in 2018 that four companies — Cargill and Tyson Foods and Brazillian companies National Beef Packing Co. and JBS SA — accounted for about 85% of all cuts of beef bought and sold in country that year.

“That’s not competition,” Tester said. “That is a situation

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