Montana Beef Council Follows Bikers in Search for the Best Steak in the State
June 27, 2022
Summertime is a season of change in the state of Montana, as pairs are moved to grass, school lets out, tourism picks up, and, to everyone’s great pleasure, road construction begins wherever traffic is highest. Now, when thinking of tourism in Montana, images of campers, hikers, and boaters may be the first to come to mind. The question is, is it typical for the term, “tourism,” to spark the thought of a biker gang composed of farmers and ranchers?
Over fourteen years ago, Carl Mattson, a farmer from Chester, MT, came up with a plan to tour the state with other farmers and ranchers in order to “scope out” what agriculture looks like across Montana during the third week of June.
Mattson said, “I had a number of years when I worked with the Montana Grain Growers and the Montana Stockgrowers, and I had a little Harley Davidson lapel pin on my suit jacket. People would say, ‘Oh, you ride,’ and then, well, I got to meet different people that all had Harley's, but the story was always the same: ‘I've had a Harley, I think I rode it three miles last year.’ I said, ‘Boy, we got to go somewhere.’”
“I think every year is a different destination and a different reason to go somewhere,” said Sky Anderson, a fellow rider from Clyde Park, MT. “We actually tried to get down to Eastern Iowa to go see the John Deere combine factories, and we got shut out by COVID. The very first year was Fort Peck dam, and just seeing, you know, farms up there in northeast Montana. We’ve been to Buffalo, Wyoming, up in Canada, heck, we’ve been everywhere, really. But this year, it was Carl and maybe his wife, Janice, who said that we're going to go to small steakhouses in the state of Montana. Of course, everybody on this trip loves great steak. So we were enthusiastically supportive of that decision.”
This year, the tour took place over the course of five nights, supporting the following restaurants: The Edgar Bar, (Edgar, MT); The Ringling Bar, (Ringling, MT); Sir Scott’s Oasis, (Manhattan, MT); Casangranda’s Steakhouse, (Butte, MT), and The Depot, (Missoula, MT). Through the nights of June 21-25, though the bikers may have split up during the day to tour different areas, the group gathered together for company and conversation, which was all shared over some of the best steaks Montana has to offer. The atmosphere of family that followed the group was obvious to any outsider, though anyone would quickly be invited to grab a chair if they lingered long enough.
“It's so good to share ideas with other people. We looked at some awful good cattle today, we looked at some native grass that was going to seed, we looked at some really good crops,” said Bob Lee, a rider from Judith Gap. “I guess the real dividend check of this whole thing is the fact that we get to communicate and share our love and passion for agriculture with other people.”
Now, the search for the best steak in the state was not merely a tagline for this year’s adventures. The group took this task seriously, as they filled out a detailed scorecard after each dinner. Steaks, of course, were scored critically, but service and atmosphere were also taken into serious consideration as part of the establishment’s overall score. Just as a “family atmosphere” is evident when observing the group, a similar quality was expected in the restaurants the bikers went to.
“Beef is one of the most important things we are known for in the state of Montana,” said Lee. “When people think of Montana, they might say, ‘wow, big sky, and good people.’ What they should also think of is the value added to the beef industry with Montana genetics. It goes back to that family atmosphere that we bring to the table for the whole industry, and we are sure proud to do it.”
“You know, we come together. We're grain farmers, and we're livestock producers. And we're all out here to take a few days off and away from work and, and have a good time on our motorcycles,” said Mattson. “The motorcycle is more or less the common denominator, but the willingness to visit and to have a great time with one another is the other end of it.”
When asked why beef in particular brought this family of bikers together, Mattson chuckled. “It's not that we couldn't promote wheat, but it's a lot more fun eating a steak than it is eat a pancake.”
Check out more information about the Montana Beef Council throughout the year on Facebook, Instagram, or by going to www.montanabeefcouncil.org.
Source: Anna Sponheim, for the Western Ag Network