CAMAS PRAIRIE — A Montana bison ranch is reaching a new leg of success with the launch of a new product.
A new product from Roam Free Ranch hit the shelves at regional Costcos earlier this month.
Leave behind the city of Missoula and head north towards Highway 200, and watch that landscape become ranchland — an area that hasn’t changed much in some time.
That's where you will find this ranch in Camas Prairie, where bison, the national mammal, are raised by Brittany Masters and Job Sepp.
“It's really an American venture to be a part of raising bison, I think, for food production," Sepp told MTN News.
“You don't get into bison ranching because it's a make-money-quick scheme or because it's easy," Masters said, "if you're in bison ranching it's because you love it and it's because you have a real passion for what you're doing.”
The Roam Free operation started with just nine bison on 240 acres about 10 years ago.
“When I first started, I was just eating peanut butter and jelly just trying to make it living in a trailer and we've grown a lot since that time," Sepp explained.
Last year, the enterprise moved to a 3 thousand-acre space where about 150 head of bison roam.
“It's very satisfying to help both preserve a species and land base here in Montana," Sepp said.
Since childhood, raising bison has been a dream for Sepp.
“When I was about four years old, my parents and I were moving across the country and I ended up seeing some bison on the side of the road. And since that time, I've always wanted to raise them. I spent about nine years in the military and then as soon as I got out, I transitioned into building this bison ranch.
- Jon Sepp
Things have changed since then. Now, a whole fleet of employees and machinery help run the place, while 400 stores sell a variety of jerky products from Roam Free.
“We're to a point now where we can sustain by just ranching and selling our food products in stores which for us is a dream come true," Sepp said.
A new development is that Costco now carries an exclusive bison chili product from the ranch.
“We're the first regenerative bison ranch to be selling a ready-to-eat product in Costco," Masters said.
As of a few weeks ago, the retailer carries the product in 32 locations across Washington, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Oregon,
“That was really satisfying to have that moment to be like, hey, a decade of work and beyond and dreaming has finally arrived us to a place where we're feeding people responsibly and we're seeing the fruition of the business that we worked a long time to build," Sepp said.
“There's nothing like seeing it on a Costco shelf," Masters said.