Consistency is important especially when running a business but circumstances brought about by the pandemic have shifted the way people do business across our state. That holds true for the Sullivan family in Dixon.
Right alongside the National Bison Range near Dixon sits the Sullivan family ranch.
From the beginning, it’s been a family business.
"When I met Chris, he had always wanted to do bison, and that sounded exciting to me. We started with just 20 young ones and built it into what we have today," said Stacy Sullivan.
Everything down to the logo was given careful thought and consideration along the way.
" I was riding along and all the sudden the two-year-olds were running after me and even my cow horse, and he was super cow ey, he took off too, and I was never so glad to be run away with and that’s where our logo for Montana Buffalo Gals came from," said Sullivan.
Like it has for other ranchers across the state, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented a unique set of challenges.
"It’s a hard adjustment, so a lot of farmers and ranchers are having a tough time," said Chris Sullivan.
But, it hasn’t been all bad. Sullivan counts himself lucky that he lives in Montana.
" We’re lucky in Montana because we have small slaughter facilities that are state inspected. Some states like Idaho, have no state inspection. The state inspection is basically the same as USDA inspection, the same requirements, but state inspection is the small local plants," said Sullivan.
Having meat processed at a state-regulated facility also means the meat can only be sold in-state.
“It just doesn’t make sense," said Marty Zaluski.
Marty Zaluski is the Montana State Veterinarian and Administrator of the Animal Health and Food and Safety division at the Montana Department of Livestock.
"Imagine somebody, you know, in South Dakota being able to market all the way across their state but not a couple hundred miles across the state boundary. Or in fact, Baker Montana being able to market 300 miles, 400 miles across the state, of Montana, however wide it is, over to Libby or dillion but not being able to sell 50 miles across the border," said Zaluski.
The Montana Ag Network reported earlier in the week, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators including Montana’s Steve Daines have asked Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to consider areas for regulatory and programmatic reform in the meat processing industry that could address parts of this issue in the future.
For now, the Sullivan family, like other producers in their area, will rely on local sales to stay afloat.
"We have about 24 animals, and the grass is fantastic this year, the clovers fantastic, so they are prime meat animals, and it would be great to be able to sell to the local people," said Sullivan.
You can find Montana Buffalo Gals meat at Mission Mountain Natural Foods in Polson and the Camas Natural Food store in Hot springs. Last week the Buffalo Gals announced you can now purchase their meat from Charlo Grocery as well. Check out the Montana Buffalo Gals Facebook page here for more information.