Serving up success
for Tri-State Livestock News
“We thank God every day for the opportunities He has given us to own our own businesses. We know it’s important to work hard, treat people right and make good decisions, but at the end of the day, all good things come from above,” said Travis Choat about the opportunity to own and run Powder River Meat Company.
Drive thought Terry, Mont., and you’ll notice a new meat shop and two young owners who are not only excited about the future of agriculture but the lifestyle the meat shop and feedlot bring them. Tamara and Travis Choat recently turned Forcella’s Custom Meats into Powder River Meat Company. The Choat family shopped at Forcella’s Custom Meats after they moved back to Montana in 2012. One spring day in 2013 while Tamara Choat was shopping there, the owners mentioned they were thinking of retiring. Seeing an opportunity unfold, Tamara asked, “Are you interested in selling Forcella’s Custom Meats?” Surprisingly they said yes and a business venture began to unfold. At that time, Choat’s owned a farm and feedlot that they had purchased from Jim and Debbie Beardsley, Tamara’s parents. After hearing the meat shop idea, Travis saw the vision for the business to be a value-added component to the irrigated farm and feedlot. After visiting about it and building a business plan, Powder River Meat Company came to life.
Tamara is no stranger to eastern Montana and knows the struggle of finding high-quality meat to feed her family. She was raised in eastern Montana on family-owned cow-calf ranches near Ismay and Powderville. She attended high school in Miles City and returned home to Montana to work after graduating with degrees in agricultural communications and animal science from Oklahoma State University. Travis grew up raising cattle on wheat grass pasture in Enid, Okla., and obtained his undergraduate and doctorate degrees in animal science from Oklahoma State University and Colorado State University. Travis and Tamara were married in 2007, and after moving six times in six years for Travis’ work, they had the opportunity to return to Montana in 2012 and take over the family business. Montana quickly became home for the Choats and they were able to raise their family in an industry they loved.
“The success of Powder River Meat Company depends on a lot of factors, but we believe the most important is the people who manage and work at the shop: Bill Klunder, his son Grant, and Robert Harrell. I spend a lot of time working on the business from home, and Travis goes in to help as much as he can, but we also have a family and a feedlot to run, and can’t be there all the time. To us, our employees are what matter most and what are the true driver behind the success of the meat shop,” Tamara explained. “Our operations manager, Bill Klunder, loves cutting meat and working with customers to ensure top quality service, and I assist with customer service and scheduling.”
Powder River Meat Company is a custom processing and retail meat provider to the community of Terry and the surrounding regions in eastern Montana. They offer custom livestock and wild game processing and special order fulfillment, in addition to stocking a full retail meat counter.
“We do our best to schedule customers in a timely manner and meet their individual needs and requests for processing their animals. We process cattle, pigs, lambs, goats, and also antelope, deer, elk and buffalo during hunting season. Since we opened, we have continued to expand our retail product offerings and add to the selection of sausage and smokehouse specialty products that we can make.” To the Choats and Powder River Meat Company being a valuable part of the community and industry means also giving back, so in the summer they process 4-H animals after the local fairs.
“We are thankful for the opportunity the meat shop has given us to get to know people in the area, provide a service of fresh meat to a small town, and become involved in and a part of the community,” said Tamara.
Powder River Meat Company is based on the belief and practice of the three pillars of success: science, service and satisfaction. Food safety using contemporary science is their primary objective. Not only the kill floor and in the butcher shop but the entire building is overseen for safely. “Travis was trained in one of the top meat science programs in the nation – Colorado State University, and oversaw food safety at nine corporate packing plants across the nation while working for Smithfield Beef. “Using science-based methods, we have enacted new processes such as a lactic acid wash post-mortem, and designed a new cutting floor and processing area to ensure top quality clean-up and sanitation,” explains Tamara about the importance of focusing on technology and science.
Customer service is high on their priority list. If a customer isn’t 100 percent satisfied, staff or the owners address their concerns, correct the problem and make it right.
“We are incredibly excited about the future of Powder River Meat Company. We see a real need for quality, service-based custom processing of livestock and wild game in this area, and despite there being several other quality custom butchers in the region, we feel there is more than enough demand to keep all of us in business,” stated Tamara with a smile
Powder River Meat Company hopes to expand in the future but still be known for the friendly service and high quality. “Our two biggest goals over the next year are first to gain USDA inspection so we can begin to process our own animals for retail sale, and second, to continue to grow and support a team of talented people who share the vision we have for the company,” explains Tamara
Powder River Meat Company has a website and facebook page where they promote daily specials and take requests.
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A pasture or lot with plenty of grass or bedding and windbreak is important when calving in the cold.