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Pasture to Pantry: Cull Cows Provide Protein for Needy Families

Ruth Wiechmann
for Tri-State Livestock News
When a cow isn't raising a calf, she might be able to help feed a family. Photo by Ruth Wiechmann

What if that gimpy old cow that lost her calf this spring could help feed needy families? Opal area ranchers, with the help of former pastor Steve Talley, started doing just that.

A year ago, one rancher approached Opal Community Church’s Pastor Talley about donating the beef from a cull cow to area food pantries. Through the collaborative efforts of Sturgis Alliance of Churches, Love, INC of Sturgis and Northern Hills Sources of Support, connections were made and the cow was processed and donated. Over the next several months, a total of nine animals were donated, butchered, processed and distributed to five area pantries and two feeding programs in the northern Black Hills area, totaling nearly four thousand pounds of ground beef.

Pastor Talley has since moved out of state, but the idea is still going strong. Larry Stomprud of Opal is now keeping things organized and he’s looking for donations of cattle to carry on and scale up the Pastures to Pantry program. In light of the COVID-19 situation, food donations are needed now more than ever. Additionally, monetary donations can help sustain the efforts to cover processing costs instead of pantries having to purchase meat by the pound.

Last year, Larry and Pastor Talley just spread the word about the project in the Opal area; this year Larry is hoping to see it grow in numbers and over a larger area.

“We’ve budgeted for twenty head,” he said. “I’m in charge of locating animals. Ideally it would be nice to have them trickle in all year long but we’ll take them anytime we can schedule them with the butcher. We have applied for some grants so that the food pantries don’t have to pay for all of the processing themselves. Monetary donations also help cover any potential storage costs of the meat while recipient pantries are being identified.”

One limiting factor is that animals must be slaughtered at a USDA inspected facility. Ranchers donating a cull animal may need to feed it for a while until processing can be scheduled. All of the meat will be ground into hamburger, because that is what the pantries need. Cows that would not have a high cull value are welcome and encouraged.

Monetary donations are also welcome to help cover costs of processing the animals, and potentially to cover storage costs of the meat.

“We are not a formal organization yet,” Larry said, “But we are in the process of getting registered. Right now we are running the 501c.3 part of it through the Sturgis Alliance of Churches, so anyone wanting to make a tax deductible cash donation can do so.”

It’s a great opportunity to transform the way food pantries and feeding programs function in western South Dakota. The need is as great as ever given the rate that food is being distributed due to the presence of COVID-19, the shutdown of many businesses, and the looming possibility of unemployment or benefit reductions for low income families.

“It’s our duty to steward these resources wisely,” Larry said. “It’s a win for South Dakotans from start to finish: ranchers, donors, pantries and recipients. It’s an opportunity to address food insecurity with a home grown product. Many of us were recipients of support following Storm Atlas. Now it is our turn to help. I’d just ask my fellow ranchers to consider donating what they can.”

Anyone interested in donating a beef can contact Larry Stomprud at 605-484-3758 or stomprudangus@gwtc.net. To make monetary donations to the project, please reach out to Larry Carpenter, 605-490-9716 or vetss@outlook.com.

One old cow might seem like a small start, but when there’s one more, and one more, and one more, they begin to make a world of difference.


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