Where's the beef? That's what a lot of you were probably asking yourselves when you showed up at grocery stores looking for some fresh beef during the COVID-19 shutdowns.

Meanwhile, why aren't ranchers getting the prices they deserve due to the increased demand for beef? That's a question many ranchers have been asking even before the COVID-19 shutdowns.

Both of these questions combined have more folks wondering why we don't process more meat locally here in Montana. Why be so dependent on out of state meat packing plants? Can we turn to local butchers and meat processors?

As it turns out, local meat processors are at capacity too. Thanks to efforts by Miles Community College, the Montana Meat Processors Association, and the Montana Farm Bureau Federation- help may be on the way. They're all teaming up to launch a new meat processing program at Miles Community College.

As the Montana Farm Bureau reports:

Miles Community College and Montana Farm Bureau have teamed up to make a meat processing certificate/degree a reality. For the past several years, MCC has been hoping to develop a certificate that can offer a journeyman certificate in meat cutting.

“The recent disruptions in the livestock product supply chain due to COVID-19 raised awareness of the American public to the importance of the local food supply chain,” noted MFBF Executive Vice President John Youngberg. “Montana Farm Bureau has been in discussions with the Montana Meat Processors Association and ascertained that there was no training available for meat cutters either through private programs nor the university system.  MFBF has been working with Miles Community College and the Board of Regents on a program that could be implemented to alleviate that situation.”

Those interested in the course should contact Kim Gibbs, agricultural instructor, Miles Community College, gibbsk(at)milescc.edu or call 406-874-6100.

We spoke with Kimberly Gibbs from MCC, and John Younberg with MFBF. Listen to the full audio below, or check out the "Montana Talks with Aaron Flint" podcast.