Paintrock Processing joins list of Food from the Field processors

Barbara Anne Greene

On May 26, Jennie Gordon, the First Lady of Wyoming, visited Paintrock Processing in Hyattville. Before the visit was over Tommy Searfoss, owner of Paintrock, signed an agreement to be a processor for Gordon’s Food from the Field program. Also on hand was his wife, Maddie.

The program is part of Wyoming Hunger Initiative. Hunters may donate their animals to the program. It is then processed and then distributed to food banks, churches, etc., to be given to those needing food. Hunters may also donate towards the processing fee.

Gordon explained that food insecurity is an all-too-real challenge in Wyoming. With more than one year of the pandemic under our belts, Feeding America released 2020 data to suggest that one in every four children in Wyoming may not know where their next meal is coming from. “In Wyoming, that translates to about 29,000 kids! That isn’t OK with me,” said the First Lady, a hunter and the founder of Wyoming Hunger Initiative

Searfoss said he was excited to be a part of the program. “It feels good. I love to show off the plant because we worked so hard to be a part of this plan. It feels like an accomplishment to have someone at her (Gordon’s) level to come to my place and visit with me.”

He stressed those hunters that want to donate, need to keep the head with the animal. This allows them to be tested for chronic waste disease (CWD). Any animal that has not been tested cannot be used in this program.

Plants will process donated game animals into 1 or 2 pound finished packages of ground meat of deer, elk, antelope, moose, and wild bison donated through Wyoming Hunger Initiative by individuals. No road killed or game animals obtained in any other manner shall be processed using these funds.

They will receive reimbursement from Wyoming Hunger Initiative for processing fees above and beyond the encouraged $45 donor flat rate fee. A disposal fee of $50 will be issued if the carcass is disposed of due to a positive CWD test.

Also on hand were three representatives from Wyoming Fish and Game. Gordon said they were there to discuss the CWD testing and how it could be expedited. Plants will have to take and submit CWD samples for deer, elk, and moose to the Game and Fish Wildlife Health Lab if no sample has already been submitted. The G&F lab is in Laramie.  There is also an issue of what to do with positive carcasses.  Representing G&F were Corey Class, Cody Region biologist supervisor; Eric Maichak, disease specialist; and Game Warden Matt Lentsch.

Admiral Beverage in Worland has donated refrigerated trucks to be used for donated carcasses to be held in until CWD test results are returned to the processor from the state lab. Admiral will bring the truck to the processor and it will remain throughout hunting season. Wyoming Hunger Initiative covers the cost of the fuel. This ensures that every game meat donation has been properly tested prior to being handed over for consumption. Once the meat is processed, it will need to be picked up.

Caitlin Youngquist is the agriculture and horticulture educator for University of Wyoming Extension. She is also a regional director for Wyoming Hunger Initiative.  Youngquist will work with anyone in the area to distribute the game meat this fall. She is looking to create a list of volunteers and networks that will not only help her pick up the meat to keep it out of Paintrock’s freezer but also to receive the meat. Any anti-hunger agency in this region including Big Horn, Park, Washakie or Hot Springs is eligible to receive game meat donations if they wish. Those needing to contact her may do so at Washakie County Extension at 307-347-3431

 Paintrock is the third processing plant that has signed on to be a part of the Food from the Field program. The other two plants are in Thayne and Evansville. Another plant in Cheyenne will be coming on board. As part of this trip, Gordon will be visiting or calling plants in Cody, Riverton and Sheridan. The goal is to have the strategically placed throughout the state.

Last year with just two plants, 4,000 pounds was processed. The hope is to do twice that this year. For more info or to donate contact the Wyoming Hunger Initiative at 5001 Central Ave, Cheyenne, WY 82009, 307-274-0365. You many also contact Paintrock Processing at 307-469-2343.