MOPC news

State-Inspected Meats Deserve Equal Access to Markets

By Ron de Yong, Director
Montana Department of Agriculture

U.S. consumers enjoy the safest meat and poultry products in the world. State regulatory programs play a key role in assuring that our food is safe, unadulterated and properly labeled.

In Montana, 47 state-inspected slaughter facilities provide beef, lamb, pork and other meat products as well as specialty food items including bacon, smoked meats, jerky and certified organic meat products. An outdated federal law prohibits state-inspected plants from selling products across state lines despite a provision in the law that requires these plants to have safety standards that equal or exceed those of USDA-inspected facilities.

Meat and poultry products from 38 foreign countries can be shipped and sold anywhere in the United States. My friend Roger Johnson, North Dakota agriculture commissioner and president of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, points out that state inspection programs undergo annual audits on more than 125 pages of compliance procedures. By comparison, USDA’s audit document for evaluating foreign inspection systems is a one-page checklist.

The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed legislation to deal with this inequity. Senator Max Baucus and several colleagues have introduced similar legislation in the Senate. These bipartisan measures (S. 1149 and S. 1150) would level the playing field for state-inspected meat processors, including the 47 plants in Montana.

There are many reasons to abolish the 1967 prohibition on interstate shipments of state-inspected meat. Meat and poultry are the only products so restricted. Milk, fruit, vegetables, fish, venison, pheasant, quail and other products can be shipped freely across state lines.

Enabling interstate sales of state-inspected meat and poultry will provide economic fairness and open markets. New marketing opportunities not only will benefit producers, processors and small businesses, but also will give consumers more choices at the supermarket. This change is common sense and it’s the right thing to do.

Health Benefits of Certified Organic Grass Finished Beef

by: Dr. David Anderson, Pulmonologist and MOPC Member

By certified organic grass finished beef we mean beef cattle that meet the standards, including yearly inspections, of the National Organic Program of the US Department of Agriculture and are raised on hay forage and grass their entire lives and are finished on growing grass before they are marketed.

Health benefits include lower saturated fat content, higher omega-3 fatty acids, more anti-oxidants such as vitamin E, and more conjugated Linoleic acid.

As a result of multiple scientific studies we have learned that it is not only the total amount of fat in foods eaten but also the types of fats present that plays important roles in promoting good health. A 6-ounce steak from a grass finished animal has 100 fewer fat calories than a 6-ounce steak from a grain finished animal 1 and the amount of saturated fats as compared to polyunsaturated fats plays an important role in the relative risk of eating red meat such as beef as a risk factor for atherosclerotic vascular disease. Several studies in animal science have demonstrated that high grass intake resulted in higher polyunsaturated fatty acid content of meat from steers whose main food was grass compared to cattle that were grain fed. 2,4 These same studies also demonstrate more omega-3 fatty acids and more conjugated Linoleic acids in grass fed steers. Another study done at the University of Wyoming demonstrated that these benefits are lost when cattle are fed grain on feedlot. 3

Multiple well done nutritional studies have also demonstrated the health benefits of foods high in omega-3 fatty acids in reducing cardiovascular risk when groups of people were given foods high in omega-3 fatty acids versus a standard diet. 5 Almost all of these studies compared fish products which have the long chain n-3 fatty acids ( eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexasnoic acid). Studies such as the Physician

Montana Organic Producers Form New Co-op


Twenty-two organic livestock producers have joined together to form the Montana Organic Producers Co-op (MOPC). Its mission is to help organic producers achieve fair, stable pricing for their output based on cost-of-production plus a fair return.

Organic producers face a number of challenges in obtaining a fair price including cheap off-shore organic meats being sold to consumers without country of origin labeling; a lack of local certified organic processing facilities; limited transportation to inter- and intra-state markets; and a lack of information on cost-of-production and grading to help producers continually improve their herds and manage their pricing proactively.

“MOPC’s purpose is to help organic producers market their products at a fair price regardless of the hurdles particular to organic production. We want to represent our members in those arenas which can affect infrastructure and legislation to the benefit of not only organic producers, but our agricultural community as a whole,” states Clay McAlpine, MOPC chairperson.

MOPC has grown out of the input of over 70 organic producers who worked together to develop a unique co-op model. It orchestrates the growing, feeding, and finishing of animals produced by its members, allowing profits of cow-calf and feed sales to remain within the group before finished animals are sold to national and regional buyers.

“Our pricing model has little to do with conventionally produced meats and commodity pricing because our animals are raised using a completely different production management system,” says McAlpine. “MOPC’s certified organic growers adhere to current organic law, but they take their commitment to sustainable farming practices one step further. Our animals are pasture-raised and grass finished, while commodity pricing levels are tied to corn prices and feed lot systems.”

MOPC began negotiating sales contracts for potential members in 2005. Sales and shipments for 2006 jumped 338% and are anticipated to increase another 70 to 80% in 2007. MOPC coordinates all animal shipments of participating producers so that even the smallest producers may benefit from farm-gate prices generally reserved for volume contracts and full potload shipments.

McAlpine adds: “While our aim is to promote Montana certified organic products, we have attracted members from across Montana and several adjoining states. Our current membership is comprised of ranchers from Montana as well as South Dakota, Nebraska and Idaho. We do not anticipate developing a MOPC “brand” nor do we require that our members sell all of their production through the co-op. Of course our hope is to do a good enough job for our members that they’ll choose to sell most, if not all, of their production through MOPC.”

MOPC’s current focus is on beef, but it will also be marketing lamb, goats, pork, and possibly bison as sufficient numbers of these animals become available to be attractive to buyers. As time goes on, MOPC will likely be adding organic grain marketing to their list of services to member producers.

MOPC is a collaborative marketing cooperative for qualifying organic producers of agricultural products. MOPC is affiliated with a network of other organic farmer marketing cooperatives and OFARM to share information, contacts, pricing, and to develop marketing opportunities for member producers. MOPC’s purpose is threefold: 1) to find markets for members’ products and negotiate fair, stable, consistent pricing; 2) to act as an information source for member producers, and to provide grading and yield data back to producers to they can better manage their crops and herds; 3) to speak for organic farmers’ interests in legislative matters and with the NOP, and in other instances as warranted.