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

2016 Annual 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

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


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 food services 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 Team to Date

Principal Investigator Carmen Byker Shanks

Co-Principal Investigators Tommy Bass; Joel Schumacher

Senior Associate Aubree Roth

Project Assistant Lacy Stephens (May—July) to Janet Gamble

Producers Karla Buck, Jeremy Plummer, Garl Germman (May – October) to Wes Henthorne

Food service Jennifer Montague (May—December) to Lorie Hafer; John Polacik (May—December) to Michele Carter

National Center for Appropriate Technology Partner Katie Holloran and Mallory Stefan

Objectives/Performance Targets

Objectives for Year 1

  • Conduct comprehensive case studies of at least five schools procuring local beef.
  1. Using baseline data gathered by the MTB2SC in 2014, the research will identify different procurement models that schools in Montana are currently using to purchase local beef (e.g., purchasing an entire cow directly or purchasing boxed beef).
  2. Collect data about each of these B2S systems, focusing on the perspectives of the participating producers, processors, and the foodservice directors and students at the school.
  • Examine local beef utilization at schools.
  1. Collect information about specific uses of local beef and recipe modifications at schools.
  2. Obtain student acceptance data about local beef utilization by collecting meal participation rates and conducting plate waste studies to understand the level of consumption and preference regarding local vs. non-local beef.

Performance Targets

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 food service
  • 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


Media and Outreach to Date

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/beef2school/

  • Average of 401 individuals reached per week
  • Total of 281 likes
  • 64 posts

Twitter https://twitter.com/mtbeeftoschool

  • 231 following
  • 67 tweets




  • Byker Shanks, C. (2015, October). Beef to School Workshop. Florida Farm to School Conference. Naples, FL.
  • Byker Shanks, C. (2015, October). Farm to School: It’s All About Context. Florida Farm to School Conference. Naples, FL.

Project Activities to Date

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.

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.

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.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

  • Established local and national network of beef to school collaborators through Twitter, Facebook, blogging, presentations, and media.
  • Continued and grew Montana Beef to School Coalition through coalition calls and face to face meeting.
  • Conducted and analyzed comprehensive case study of five beef to school systems in Montana, including producers, processors, and schools.
  • Understood policy frameworks that impact producers, processors, and schools to plan avenues to grow beef to school partnerships in Montana to get Montana beef in every Montana school.


Jennifer Montague

School Foodservice Manager
Kalispell Public Schools
106 Northwest Lane
Kalispell, MT 59901
Office Phone: 4067513646
Website: http://www.sd5.k12.mt.us/Page/124
Karla Buck

Bear Paw Meats
1705 5th Ave
Havre, MT 59501
Office Phone: 4062652440
Website: http://www.bearpawmeats.com
Aubree Roth

Farm to School Coordinator
Montana Team Nutrition
222 Romney Gym
Bozeman, MT 59717
Office Phone: 4069945996
Website: http://opi.mt.gov/Programs/SchoolPrograms/School_Nutrition/Farm2School.html
Garl Germann

Montana Meat Co
104 E Main St Suite 303
Bozeman, MT 59715
Office Phone: 4065801812
Website: http://montanameat.co
Thomas Bass

Livestock Environment Associate Specialist
Montana State University Extension
Room 101, Linfield Hall
Bozeman, MT 59717
Office Phone: 4069945733
Website: http://www.animalrangeextension.montana.edu/agrosec/tommy_bass.html
Jeremy Plummer

Lower Valley Processing Co
2115 Lower Valley Rd
Kalispell, MT 59901
Office Phone: 4067522846
Website: http://www.lowervalleyprocessing.com
Katie Holloran

Montana Local Food Specialist
National Center for Appropriate Technology
3040 Continental Drive
Butte, MT 59701
Office Phone: 4064944572
Website: https://www.ncat.org
Joel Schumacher

Associate Extension Specialist
Montana State University Extension Department of Agricultural Economics
210 D Linfield
Bozeman, MT 59717
Office Phone: 4069946637
Website: http://www.montana.edu/extensionecon/facultyandstaff/jschumacher.html
John Polacik

School Foodservice Manager
Livingston Public Schools
132 South B Street
Livingston, MT 59047
Office Phone: 4062220209
Website: http://www.livingston.k12.mt.us/domain/16