Thursday, February 07, 2019

Montana agricultural economist wants to make the state, a major beef producer, a mecca for veggie burgers

Barnett Sporkin-Morrison
Montana is famous for its cattle ranches and the beef they produce -- there's a reason Arby's has a roast beef sandwich called the Big Montana -- but a 35-year-old agricultural economist is hoping to make the state just as famous for veggie burgers.

"Barnett Sporkin-Morrison is a . . . former diplomat recently recruited by the Great Falls Development Authority to take charge of its Food and Agriculture Development Center," Timothy Clark reports for Route Fifty. "His goal is to attract venture capital that’s now being mostly spent around Silicon Valley and high-tech regions of the Northeast to develop plant-based proteins—foods like tofu, lentil burgers, roasted chickpeas and other alternatives to meat—that could appeal to modern consumers."

Sporkin-Morrison told Clark he worries about the future of rural Montana and hopes that, by taking advantage of the increasing popularity of meat analogues, he can make it possible for locals to make a good living while staying in Central Montana. Great Falls, pop. 59,000, is in the heart of Montana's farming region.

A sixth-generation Montanan himself, Morrison was born in the state but raised in Wyoming because his dad found a better job there. He most recently spent two years in Guatemala trying to increase their agricultural output, but jumped at the chance to come back home, Clark reports.

Sporkin-Morrison said he hasn't heard any complaints about his organization from ranchers, but pushback from the beef industry has spurred lawsuits in Missouri and several other states to prohibit vegetarian meat analogues from using terms associated with meat, like veggie "burgers," Clark reports.

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