Phillips County News - One Nation, Under God

By Rachel Jamieson
Havre Daily News 

Big Sandy Meats becoming Hi-Line Packing in Malta


October 23, 2019

Big Sandy Meats is moving to Malta and is expected to open in mid-November, but renamed to Hi-Line Packing.

Big Sandy Meats owner Jim Dumas said he is moving into a meat processing plant in Malta in a building which has been there since 1917 and started operating as a meat packing plant in 1974.

He said he has been trying to acquire it for the past five years.

“Why now? Because I have been trying to buy this plant for some time now, so the timing is relating when I could get a hold of this plant. The decision to move was a lot of things,” he said. “First, was the inability to expand the size of my plant in Big Sandy. Why Malta? Because Malta is where this plant was already and Malta is a great location. The town is bigger and has more of an employee base to work with.”

He added that he is in the middle of a growing market for locally raised food. More people want to know where their food is coming from, so the demand for the services that he provides has been growing and is continuing to grow, he added.

Big Sandy Mayor Shaud Schwarzbach said that any time a small community loses a business it is hard.

“Meat processing in rural areas is getting harder to find. Our residents will need to drive long distances to get their custom processing done,” he said. “Big Sandy Meats has always been accommodating to their customers and supportive of their community, so it is my hopes that they find a way to serve us into the future. I am happy for their success and wish them the best now and into the future. They will always be welcome to do business in Big Sandy and their services will be greatly missed.”

Bear Paw Development Corp. had a role in Dumas’s move to Malta.

“Our role was a very traditional role as a lender to a business in our region who approached us about an opportunity that he had to expand his business,” Bear Paw Executive Director Paul Tuss said. “Our organization, who had a prior relationship with this particular business, looked at this opportunity as a good one for northern Montana, for the business and certainly for the business owner himself. We helped to finance for the expansion of his particular business.”

Tuss added that Dumas’ move to Malta was a real opportunity.

Dumas said he was born and raised in Big Sandy and had run Big Sandy Meats for nine years, adding that it has not been processing since August of this year in preparation for the move.

He said the big difference between the locations is the size of the plants.

“I’m looking forward to a completely different operation than what I had because this has got a full-fledged kill floor, so we get to slaughter in-house instead of having to go out to the field and doing it,” Dumas said. “The number and the productivity will be different than what we did in Big Sandy.”

“We could, if we were lucky, house 34 carcasses in Big Sandy and this one will hold about 100 to 130 carcasses,” he added.

He said the new plant will also allow the business to expand its markets.

“We are also going back to the United States Department of Agriculture grant of inspection on this one,” he said. “It’ll take a few years to get it depending on what hurdles I have to go through to get it.”

He said the plant located in Big Sandy never qualified for the inspection, but the one in Malta USDA to be a USDA plant from day one and has always operated under USDA inspection.

He added that with the USDA inspection allows the wholesaler to sell to the grocery stores and market the product as a locally raised product to in-state or out of state.

“I’m not necessarily adding any new product, but just expanding in what we are already doing and what we have,” Dumas said. “We do all kinds of smoke products, we will have a retail store same as we did have in Big Sandy, but our number of animals that we are processing will be drastically more.”

He said this is a huge need in north-central Montana because Montana has a limited number of meat processing plants.

He added that due to having a limited number of plants that most of the plant owners are booked out into January and February, and they can’t keep up with the demand of what’s needed.

“Clearly, the demand meat-processing services in our region is substantial,” Tuss said. “With Jim’s record of success and industry knowledge, he is a great entrepreneur and for him to take on this business expansion is significant for our entire area.”

Dumas said Hi-Line Packing was the name of the business started by Leonard Leader in 1974, who not only opened the business but also ran it till the late 1990s, Dumas said.

He added that when it sold in the ’90s it lost the USDA inspection in 2014, so that is when it fully stopped operating.

He said the move won’t change the business, just expand it.

“We are going to be providing the same services as we did in Big Sandy. We will provide the same service and product to our customers. We will be dealing with the same customer base and process for them,” Dumas said. “We are going to look at running trailers from the west edge of my customer base which is up into the Fairfield, Great Falls area, Shelby area and Fort Benton with either in horse trailers or semis bringing animals down here.”

Beef, pigs and sheep are the primary slaughter animals, he said.

Hi-Line Packing is expected to open in mid-November and will be located at 550 Industry Road, Malta, MT, 59538.


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