Examining, Optimizing, and Building Capacity for Montana’s Local Beef to School Supply Chain

Final report for SW15-028

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2015: $220,021.00
Projected End Date: 11/30/2018
Grant Recipient: Montana State University
Region: Western
State: Montana
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Carmen Byker Shanks
Montana State University
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Project Information

Abstract:

In Montana, and across the country, producers and consumers are beginning to see benefits (e.g., social, environmental, and economic) from local procurement efforts that link ranchers and local beef processors with schools in their community and region. These “beef to school” (B2S) efforts involve support of local beef from a variety of actors, including producers, processors, and foodservices and students at K-12 schools. The long-term goal of this project is improving Montana beef producers’ and meat processors’ viability and sustainability, while increasing the availability and consumption of local beef in Montana’s schools and communities.

Project Objectives:

Objectives for Year 3 are indicated below. 

May – July 2017

• Develop, print, and distribute written and web-based material for producers based research, outreach, and educational materials, including Extension bulletin

• Develop, print, and distribute written and web-based material for school based research, outreach, and educational materials, including curriculum and Harvest of the Month

• Post one tweet and Facebook post per week; one blog posting per quarter

• Develop and host school training 2 (at Montana School Nutrition Association Conference in June)

• Present at conference

August – October 2017

• Develop, print, and distribute written and web-based material for post-secondary education • Post one tweet and Facebook post per week; one blog posting per quarter

• Present at conference

November 2017 – January 2018

• Develop, print, and disseminate final case study materials, including fact sheets and associated written reports • Develop and host producer/processor training 2 (at Montana Beef Council in November or December)

• Development and disseminate webinars based on producer/processor and school trainings

• Post one tweet and Facebook post per week; one blog posting per quarter

• Present at conference

February – April 2018

• Submit research to scholarly publications

• Present at conference

• Post one tweet and Facebook post per week; one blog posting per quarter

• Conduct evaluation of efforts in year 3 which includes assessment of objectives through Western SARE reporting

Objectives for Year 2 are indicated below.

May – July 2016

  • Conduct local beef utilization in schools research (including plate waste and recipe analysis)
  • Write case study findings

• Develop larger B2S market primary evaluation tool based upon case study findings

• Collect data and conduct secondary data analysis about cattle production and processing

• Post one tweet and Facebook post per week; one blog posting per quarter

• Develop and host school training 1 (at Montana School Nutrition Association Conference in June)

• MTB2SC conference call meeting

August – October 2016

• Conduct research about school-level logistics regarding local beef utilization in schools

• Test larger B2S market primary evaluation tool

• Conduct larger B2S market primary evaluation survey research

• Collect data and conduct secondary data analysis about cattle production and processing

• Post one tweet and Facebook post per week; one blog posting per quarter

• MTB2SC conference call meeting

November 2016 – January 2017

• Post one tweet and Facebook post per week; one blog posting per quarter

• Analyze data from B2S primary evaluation tool

• MTB2SC conference call meeting

February – April 2017

• Analyze and write report about larger B2S market evaluation, including primary and secondary data

• Analyze and write report about school-level logistics regarding local beef utilization in schools

• Post one tweet and Facebook post per week; one blog posting per quarter

• Submit conference presentation proposal

• MTB2SC in person meeting

• Develop and host producer/processor training 1 (at Montana Meat Processors Association Meeting in April)

• Conduct evaluation efforts in year 2 which includes assessment of objectives through Western SARE reporting 

Objectives for Year 1 are indicated below.

May – July 2015

• Conduct outreach to at least 20 stakeholders to inform research plan, including relevant associations and groups for producers, processors, and school administration and foodservice

• Develop Montana Beef to School Coalition’s Facebook, Twitter, and blog

• Post one tweet and one Facebook post per week; one blog posting per quarter

• MTB2SC conference call meeting

August – October 2015

• Select case studies for five different procurement models for local beef in schools • Create travel plan for case study research

• Conduct a comprehensive case study of two of the B2S systems

• Post one tweet and Facebook post per week; one blog posting per quarter

• MTB2SC conference call meeting

November 2015 – January 2016

• Conduct a comprehensive case study of three of the B2S systems

• Post one tweet and Facebook post per week; one blog posting per quarter • MTB2SC conference call meeting

February – April 2016

• Analyze case study findings

• Post one tweet and Facebook post per week; one blog posting per quarter

• MTB2SC in person meeting

• Conduct evaluation of efforts in year 1 which includes assessment of objectives through Western SARE reporting

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Thomas Bass (Educator and Researcher)
  • Karla Buck - Producer
  • Garl Germann - Producer
  • Katie Holloran
  • Jennifer Montague
  • Jeremy Plummer - Producer
  • John Polacik
  • Aubree Roth (Educator and Researcher)
  • Joel Schumacher (Educator and Researcher)
  • Demetrius Fassas (Educator)

Research

Hypothesis:

 

This project is aimed at discerning which B2S methods are most sustainable for producers, processors, and schools. This new information will be used to improve current B2S programs and assist new communities in the adoption of B2S programs.

Materials and methods:

January – November 2018

During the final year of our work, we completed the following research and activities: developed and hosted webinars and trainings for schools, producers, and processors, analyzed data from processor, producer, and school research, wrote and published book and peer-reviewed reports about findings, continued outreach through social media, held annual meeting, and developed and implemented plan for sustainability. 

May – December 2017

Three studies within this project were concluded or conducted in this time period:

  1. A processor survey was administered in April and concluded in May.  The instrument was based on the case-study interview instrument. Data analysis is forthcoming in 2018.  The population surveyed were members of the Montana Meat Processors Association, a local trade group.
  2. A cattle producer survey was administered online in the fall, and was open for approximately 6 weeks.  The instrument was based on the case-study interview instrument. Data analysis is forthcoming in 2018. The population surveyed were members of the Montana Stock Growers Association and/or members of the Western Sustainability Exchange internal cattle producers directory.
  3. Water and Fat Waste (cook-off): the purpose of the Beef to School water and fat waste protocol was to provide school foodservice staff with methods to measure and collect quantitative data about the amounts of water and fat that cook off ground beef, whether commodity or locally sourced.

February – April 2017 Based upon case study findings, the research team decided to study local beef utilization in schools in three ways. First, a plate waste study is planned for the end of April 2017 to understand if students have preference towards local or non-local beef. Second, during May 2017 school food service directors are going to cook local and non-local beef and provide feedback about the preparation process of each in a systematic report. Third, the research team is working with USDA to create a beef to school bid template for schools, producers, and processors to use nationally in the procurement process. Secondary data analysis about cattle production and processing was finalized during this quarter. The IRB was submitted to conduct larger B2S market primary evaluation survey research with processors and will begin as soon as approval is gained. A blog was posted highlighting beef as the Harvest of the Month food in Montana. The Montana Beef to School Coalition met once in February by conference call to provide grant input on all progress made to date. We are currently in the planning stages for an in-person Montana Beef to School Coalition meeting at the end of April. In March, the Beef to School Project presented a webinar to the North American Meat Processors Association and at the California Farm to School Conference with other beef to school partnerships from across the nation. Our team will host an informational table at the Montana Meat Processors Association at the end of April. We began to write a book chapter tilted “Lessons of Scalability and Local-ness from Montana’s Beef to School Initiative” that will be published along with other chapters about institutional procurement in 2018.

November 2016 – January 2017 A blog was posted about case study publication and general project updates. Media continued to highlight the case study publication, including national sources such as the USDA and National Farm to School Network. Based upon case study findings, the research team began to (1) collect data and conduct secondary data analysis about cattle production and processing and (2) plan study about local beef utilization in schools research. The research team pilot tested the larger beef to school primary evaluation tool with stakeholders and revised based upon feedback. The Beef to School Project presented a webinar for the Montana Farm to School Leadership Team.

August – October 2016 The case study, “Moooooving Forward Together: Strategies for Montana Beef to School” was finalized and published. The case study is a total of 39 graphically designed pages and includes: a cover page; acknowledgements; table of contents; overview of beef to school in Montana; school, processor, and producer needs; an infographic of the beef lifecycle; an infographic of common beef to school partnerships; demographics of Montana schools, producers, and processors; challenges and opportunities for beef to school in Montana; six comprehensive case studies; vocabulary; references and resources; cuts of beef infographic. The case study received several press requests and generated many technical assistance calls from producers, processors, and schools in Montana and around the country. The Beef to School Project presented initial case study findings at the Conference on Food Studies. Additionally, a Beef to School Coalition conference call was held with 15 in attendance to discuss the primary evaluation tool, receive case study input before finalization, and plan the release of the case study report. We developed a Beef to School Project website as a sub-page of the Montana Farm to School website. This website provides a central place to store materials, provide updates, and provide project contacts. The Montana Harvest of the Month publication featuring beef was finalized and released for use by Montana Schools.

May – July 2016 During the summer of 2016, the research team largely focused on analyzing case study data and writing findings. Based upon case study findings, the research team began to develop the larger beef to school primary evaluation tool to be completed by processors and producers. The research team agreed that two tools needed to be designed due to the differing roles of each stakeholder in the process. The processor tool was drafted during this quarter. The Beef to School Project presented a poster and networked at the 2016 National Farm to Cafeteria Conference in Madison, Wisconsin.

February – April 2016 The Beef to School Project conducted and transcribed four more comprehensive case studies of beef to school systems in Montana, totaling six comprehensive case studies since the beginning of the grant. The research team originally planned to conduct five case studies, but added one more in order to highlight an additional beef to school model. The Beef to School Coalition met in March 2016 in Livingston, Montana to discuss opportunities and challenges for procurement of Montana beef in every Montana school. With 19 people in attendance at the meeting, the Coalition also evaluated year 1 of the Western SARE grant and discussed strategic directions for the Beef to School Project in the coming year. A blog was posted that focused on the in-person meeting outcomes so that those not able to attend could read a full update. The Montana Harvest of the Month publication featuring beef was piloted by Montana Schools.

February – May 2016 We (1) are finalizing case studies and analyzing results, (2) are continuing outreach through Facebook, Twitter, and blog postings, (3) hosted an in-person Montana Beef to School Coalition meeting with 25 attendees, (4) are evaluating Year 1 of Western SARE Project Number SW15-028 and planning for a successful Year 2.

August 2015 – January 2016 The research team conducted outreach to 50 targeted associations, groups, and individuals representing producers, processors, and school administration and food service. Facebook and Twitter posts continued once per week. Two blog posts were published (October and January), both highlighting preliminary results from case studies with schools, producers, and processors. The project team developed an outreach handout to provide preliminary information about beef to school to those that inquire. Additionally, we are working to realize a podcast episode about beef to school in Montana. Five case study procurement models were chosen for local beef in school. Two comprehensive case studies of beef to school systems were completed, with transcriptions currently in process for completion ahead of schedule. The three remaining comprehensive case studies are planned for completion by April 2016. Two changes in our research team structure occurred: (1) two of our school food service directors accepted other employment opportunities and their successors committed to supporting our research team, (2) project manager Lacy Stephens accepted other employment and Janet Gamble joined our research team. Carmen Byker Shanks was invited to speak at the Florida Farm to School conference in October specifically about the topic of beef to school. The Florida Department of Agriculture is now interested in growing their beef to school in their state, with assistance from our team on design of the program. This partnership will be really important for understanding beef to school programs at various scales. A statewide survey is in development phases for formal testing and research during late summer 2016. Procedures for understanding consumer preferences towards local versus non-local beef are in planning phases and methods may be switched from plate waste to taste test using Nutrislice software for better feedback. Montana Beef to School partnered with Dayle Hayes of School Meals that Rock and the Mushroom Council to plan a side project to develop and test recipes featuring beef and mushrooms. The Montana Beef to School Coalition met once in October and again in January to provide input on all progress made to date. We are currently in the planning stages for an in-person Montana Beef to School Coalition meeting in March.

March – July 2015 Carmen Byker Shanks was notified of the grant award in March 2015. The research team was immediately notified of the award. Initial project activities included completing Institutional Review Board training, submitting Institutional Review Board application and receiving approval, funding revision and initiation, and hiring a project coordinator. A Facebook page and Twitter account was set up, with weekly posts beginning in May 2015. The first blog post was published, focusing on an introduction to planned grant activities. A grant press release was written and published. Following, seven other media outlets published news about beef to school in Montana. Marty Earnheart joined the research team as a representative of the Montana Department of Agriculture. Project document sharing capabilities were set up with the research team and Montana Beef to School Coalition via Dropbox. The research team met by conference call and in person to discuss project details and worked by e-mail at other times. The research team researched and finalized case study and interview questions as well as began plan location and timeline for travel. The Montana Beef to School Coalition met once in June by conference call to provide grant input on all progress made to date.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

Research results and discussion:

See above.

Research conclusions:

 

Through our WESTERN SARE funded work, we examined beef to schools across the state of Montana to understand which are most sustainable for producers, processors, and schools. We conducted our work through case study research, stakeholder participation, and analysis of data collected in the field. The following models exist for starting and sustaining beef to school in Montana: (1) vertically integrated, (2) processor-based, (3) producer or ranch branded, (4) donation model. We found that motivations for implementing and sustaining a beef to school program include: (1) perception of beef quality, (2) supporting food literacy, (3) perception of nutrient quality, (4) supporting the local community, (5) environmental and animal welfare. We found that the following challenges exist for beginning a beef to school program: (1) cost of local beef, (2) technology and kitchen convenience, (3) school size and foodservice models, (4) logistics and availability, (5) inspection. We found opportunities to overcome each of these challenges through our examination of beef to school models. Examples of these opportunities include, starting small, balancing menu costs, working with processors, marketing, advertising, and giving credit to key stakeholders.

The success and sustainability of B2S programs depends on the support and commitment of school foodservices, producers, and processors. Around the state of Montana, successful B2S programs are ones where producers and processors provide a high quality product within the school’s budget. Each B2S program described here functions differently in that mission, based upon the relationship built and needs identified between the school foodservice, producer, and/or processor. Overall, B2S programs connect communities with agriculture by providing healthy and local Montana meals to students. This new information will be used to improve current B2S programs and assist new communities in the adoption of B2S programs in Montana and beyond.

Participation Summary
8 Farmers participating in research

Education

Educational approach:

The educational approach used in the project is based on the objective of delivering research-based information to stakeholders and parties interested in beef to school supply chains in Montana. Outreach beyond the state is intended to help those similarly interested, learn from Montana’s experience. The objective is addressed by deploying multi-media and traditional adult education methods, which include: state and national webinars, face-to-face trainings, workshops, and research/project updates, one-on-one consultation, and distribution of reports and Extension bulletins. Social media and other tools are used for awareness and project promotion.

Educational & Outreach Activities

30 Consultations
10 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
1 Journal articles
1 On-farm demonstrations
4 Online trainings
20 Published press articles, newsletters
1 Workshop field days
3 Annual Meetings

Participation Summary

25 Farmers
25 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

Maintained Website: http://www.montana.edu/mtfarmtoschool/beeftoschool.html 

Maintained FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/beef2school/ now transitioned to https://www.facebook.com/montanafarmtoschool/ 

Maintained Twitter Account: https://twitter.com/mtbeeftoschool

Beef to School Blog (including 10 posts): https://farmtocafeteria.ncat.org/beef-to-school/ 

Press/Media

  1. http://www.montana.edu/news/15609/msu-researchers-win-grant-for-beef-to-school-research
  2. http://www.montananewsreports.com/MSU-NEWS/MSU-researchers-win-grant-for-8216-Beef-to-School-8217-research-3348330
  3. http://www.nbcmontana.com/news/msu-researchers-study-beef-to-school-benefits-with-new-grant/33974542
  4. http://bozemanmagazine.com/news/1/posts/2015/06/26/1141_n-a-178
  5. http://www.northernag.net/AGNews/AgNewsStories/TabId/657/ArtMID/2927/ArticleID/4756/MSU-researchers-win-grant-for-%E2%80%98Beef-to-School%E2%80%99-research.aspx
  6. http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/news/education/msu-researchers-win-grant-for-beef-to-school-research/article_7abb0f7c-a702-5b75-8fba-47bad491bf0f.html
  7. http://mtbeef.org/beef-to-school-program-receives-research-funding/
  8. http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/news/education/msu-researchers-win-grant-for-beef-to-school-research/article_7abb0f7c-a702-5b75-8fba-47bad491bf0f.html
  9. http://m.dailyinterlake.com/members/msu-study-looks-at-local-schools-meat-program/article_2e3a1cf2-2f40-11e5-b905-d3e8a7e05458.html?mode=jqm
  10. http://www.northernag.net/AGNews/AgNewsStories/TabId/657/ArtMID/2927/ArticleID/5465/Two-Montana-Schools-Show-How-Serving-Up-Local-Beef-Is-A-Win.aspx
  11. http://www.montana.edu/news/16479/new-report-highlights-best-practices-in-montana-beef-to-school-partnerships
  12. http://www.agweek.com/news/montana/4147013-new-report-highlights-best-practices-montana-beef-school-partnerships
  13. http://www.tsln.com/news/new-report-highlights-best-practices-in-montana-beef-to-school-partnerships/
  14. http://ageconmt.com/marketing-montana-beef-montana-schools/
  15. http://feedstuffs.com/story-report-highlights-best-practices-montana-beef-school-partnerships-45-148672
  16. http://www.fairfieldsuntimes.com/business/article_2e415c8c-a1ff-11e6-b59c-7fde844d43be.html
  17. http://us4.campaign-archive2.com/?u=c5c703b20cc4ec4ae0526d9b5&id=d212c757e9
  18. https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USFNS/bulletins/1757e7e
  19. http://www.icontact-archive.com/EGzvFZC0plfb1MRTPpEDfVr5urCZlu8y?w=3
  20. https://www.westernagreporter.com/janda/clients/login.php
  21. https://opi.mt.gov/Portals/182/Page%20Files/School%20Nutrition/Professional%20Standards%20%26%20Training/Webinar%20Wednesday%20Continuing%20Ed%20Calendar%202017-18.pdf
  22. USDA The Dirt Volume 4 Issue 2 
  23. http://archive.mlgnserv.com/?u=7374bc3ef77a4d7a5bf6c9128e30cabe&id=07122654&e=0f207f0d
  24. http://www.choteauacantha.com/news/article_e5484efa-bb74-11e8-9959-571155a338cb.html
  25. https://www.vp-mi.com/front_page_slider/20190124/farm_and_ranch_management_workshop_feb_12-13_in_plains

 

Project Meetings

  • Beef to School Coalition Call
    • August 29, 2018 15 attendees
    • October 16, 2017 14 attendees
    • July 11, 2017 14 attendees
    • February 23, 2017 14 attendees
    • September 26, 2016 15 attendees
  • In-Person Meeting
    • April 28, 2017 Bozeman MT 13 attendees
    • March 23, 2016 Livingston MT 19 attendees
    • November 14, 2018 Missoula MT 14 attendees

Technical Assistance/Consultations

Ongoing consultations occurred with about 30 schools, producers, and processors throughout the project period. Countless other one time consultations occurred about starting a beef to school program in the state and nationally. We believe news of the project is getting out and interested parties across the state are seeking information on establishing beef to school supply programs in their own communities. A consultation of note involved an hour conference call with two B2S team members, as well as school, community and Extension representatives from a Montana county.

Presentations, Webinars, and Trainings

Webinar hosted by USDA Office of Community Food Systems and MSU – February 2018

Strategies for Funding Beef to School – Webinar hosted by USDA Office of Community Food Systems – October 2018

Beef to School Strategies – Webinar Hosted by Office of Public Instruction and MSU – November 2018

Proteins for a Healthy Planet – Session at National Farm to Cafeteria Conference – April 2018

Examining, Optimizing, and Building Capacity for Montana’s Local Beef to School Supply Chain – Poster Presentation at SARE Conference – March 2018

Montana Beef to School Supply Chains – Session at MSU Extension Annual Conference – October 2017

Webinar hosted by Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network March 2017

Beef to School Basics – Session at California Farm to School Conference – March 2017

Session at 2016 Montana Farm to School Summit

Session at 2016 Food Studies Conference

Poster Presentation at 2016 Farm to Cafeteria Conference

Publications

Beef to School Procurement Decision Tree: http://www.montana.edu/mtfarmtoschool/documents/beef-to-school/Beef%20Decision%20Tree_Final.pdf

Beef to School Informal Procurement Template: http://www.montana.edu/mtfarmtoschool/documents/beef-to-school/BeeftoSchool%20RFQ%20Informal%20Procurement%20Template%20Final.docx

Beef to School Formal Procurement Template: http://www.montana.edu/mtfarmtoschool/documents/beef-to-school/BeeftoSchool%20RFP%20Formal%20Procurement%20Template%20Final.docx

How to Begin a Beef to School Program

Frequently Asked Questions about Beef to School

Getting Started with Beef to School MontGuide (Extension Bulletin)

Montana Beef to School Case Study Report: Special Bulletin, MSU Extension Publications, Bozeman Montana

MONTANA’S BEEF TO SCHOOL PROJECT: Making Connections to Enhance Local Agriculture, Book Chapter in Institutional Procurement Volume. Elsevier, 2018.

 

Learning Outcomes

25 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Key areas taught:
  • farm to school
Key changes:
  • farm to school

Project Outcomes

25 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
25 Farmers intend/plan to change their practice(s)
12 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

An excerpt from our book chapter in Institutions as Conscious Consumers explains how our project has affected agricultural sustainability:

“At the heart of the local food movement, including farm-to-school, are communities with unique and often place-based motivations. The authors of this paper, researchers based in Montana, investigated what motivated the state’s local beef-to-school (B2S) programs through case study interviews, secondary data, and field observations. Overall, we found that a community-based sense of identity; specifically, a strong cattle-ranching culture throughout the state, was a significant motivation to engage in B2S. We also found that the perception that B2S would lead to particular social, economic, educational, and product benefits increased willingness to engage in B2S. Many times, schools and producers discussed the benefits of supporting B2S in light of national and global issues in beef production, including lack of transparency in the beef supply chain, concerns with sustainability, and a perception of lower-quality products. The purpose of this chapter is to highlight the grassroots efforts in Montana to serve local beef in schools and to distill barriers and opportunities in the hopes that other communities seeking local beef can benefit from lessons learned in this state … In their definition of “local,” the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) encourages consumers (schools included) to “buy farm products that originate from known, local farms that preserve the identity of the farm for each item (USDA National Agricultural Library, n.d.).” This notion of a place’s “identity” proved to be a significant motivator for schools to pursue local beef in Montana. The majority of B2S respondents represented herein interpreted “local” to mean “within Montana” and physically proximate to their specific community. B2S supply chains in Montana were characterized by multiple community, family, and social relationships between producers, processors, schools, and consumers.”

Our project has used this research to build technical materials, increase networks, and advance knowledge about building beef to school relationships in Montana and beyond.

Success stories:

The following case studies exemplifies many of the success stories we hear about on a daily basis: http://www.montana.edu/mtfarmtoschool/documents/beef-to-school/Beef%20to%20School%20Project%20Case%20Study%20Report.pdf 

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.