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By Johnathan Hettinger
Montana Free Press 

With beef backlogged and the market in flux, Montana cattle ranchers face tough choices


Melissa Jenkins

The beef supply chain in the United States typically starts on a ranch like Marty Malone's, in Paradise Valley, with the birth of calves. After a summer of grazing, a cow reaches about 500 to 700 pounds. Then the cow is sold to a feedlot in the Midwest or Great Plains, where it eats feed like corn and barley to fatten up. At about 1,200 pounds and 18 months of age, it's slaughtered at a nearby packing plant. Then it's shipped to a wholesaler, who sells the meat to a restaurant or grocery store, where an end customer purchases it.

One month into nationwide stay-at-home orders related to COV...

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