Treasure Trail Plans To Increase Capability
August 26, 2020
On Aug. 4, Governor Steve Bullock and the Montana Department of Agriculture announced that more than $7.5 million would be distributed to meat processors across the state. The coronavirus relief funds were awarded through Montana Meat Processing Infrastructure Grants.
Treasure Trail Meat Processing of Glasgow was awarded $150,000 "to assist with equipment purchases and facility modifications to increase cold storage and processing capacity." COVID-19 severely impacted the food supply chain earlier this year, highlighting how reliant producers and consumers are on a small number of corporations for meat production. Demand has risen for locally-sourced and processed foods, including in Valley County where Treasure Trail experienced an uptick in orders.
Owner Doug Wixson said, "I want to get a freezer built. Maybe some retail area up front. That's it in a nutshell." Expanding on his cold storage space will allow Wixson to increase his business as he had previously told the Courier that a lack of freezer space impeded his ability to store meat long term for processing.
Governor Bullock, in the press release from Aug. 4, said, "It's crucial that our producers have viable options for getting their meat to market. Investing in meat processing infrastructure will help our Montana producers, strengthen local food system, and bolster food security for Montanans in communities across the state from Plains to Circle.
Though he has received the grant, Wixson now faces the challenge of maneuvering through the associated bureaucratic red tape. "If I can swing it," he said, "I have to have it spent by the end of the year." Wixson has been talking with contractors and is looking at the end of the year for pouring concrete, even though "December isn't the best time to be pouring concrete."
Still, his options for scheduling may be limited as he will have to shut down his operation for several weeks to accomodate the expansion. He explained they are looking at tearing down a wall as well to build the freezer space. Over 60 businesses across Montana received grants for infrastructure upgrades which may also present difficulties in scheduling.
But if the past several months are any indicator, consumers will still have to wait. Since the closure of meat processing facilities earlier this year, many local residents have voiced their desire to purchase food locally to the extent they can. Hunters vowed to fill their freezers with game meat and ranchers used social media to connect directly with consumers, bypassing the food supply chain. Wixson saw demand for his services spiked and has not noticed much of a decline even as meat processing plants came back online.
Meat processing facilities are still facing scrutiny, with some doctors demanding investigations into whether or not the plants have contributed to further spread of the coronavirus via shipments to grocery stores. With the full effects of the virus are as yet unknown, demand for locally-sourced food is likely to continue. And Treasure Trail Meat Processing is looking to "meat" that demand long term.