Local smoked brisket brings students running to the cafeteria at Monett R-1 Schools

Beef is what’s on the menu at Monett R-1 Schools thanks to its partnership with Mo Beef Kids.
Cattle in a field
Monett partners with Mo Beef Kids to source local beef for its nutrition program. | Photo: Shutterstock

Locally Sourced

For one day only during the spring, the halls of Monett R-1 School District in Monett, Missouri are filled with the scent of smoked brisket.

The idea for the menu item behind the succulent aroma came from the district’s Child Nutrition Director Ralph Meredith two years ago when he was looking for a way to utilize the local brisket that gets delivered to the district throughout the year.

He decided to have it smoked and then served it to the district’s middle and high school students in the form of a smoked brisket sandwich. It was love at first bite.

“The high school sold out and the middle school ran out that day as well,” says Meredith.

Since then, students (and staff) look forward to that one day every spring when the brisket makes its appearance on the menu.

From ranch to plate

Getting the beef from the farm to students’ plates is a team effort. The process begins with Mo Beef Kids, a local organization that partners with ranchers in the area to donate beef to schools.

The district first started working with Mo Beef Kids back in 2019. It typically receives around 5 cattle throughout the year, which is processed into ground beef, roast beef and of course, brisket. Even though the district picks up the tab to have the beef processed it is still more cost-friendly compared to the alternative.

“[It is] cheaper to do that than it would be to be able to buy the same amount of beef from our provider,” says Kailee Mallory who heads up the Mo Beef Kids program at Monnett and is also an agri-business and food systems instructor for the district.

Meredith waits until the spring when he has collected enough brisket over the past several months and then delivers it to a local butcher who smokes it for free without any seasoning.This allows it to be a  low sodium item that fits within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) school nutrition guidelines.

Once smoked, the brisket makes its way back to the district where staff will take it to the kitchen and slice it just thick enough where it doesn’t start shredding but it still holds together. The slices are  then soaked in the meat drippings and the sandwich is compiled just before students come down for lunch.

“So therefore, the bread has just enough of that juice to have flavor but not enough to make it fall apart in your hands,” says Meredith.

A Monett student learning about local beef
A Monett student learns about local beef. 

An educational experience

As with most, if not all, farm-to-school initiatives, there is an educational component to Mo Beef Kids.  

“Most of the people that donate [cattle] is because they really see the value in it, and they really want kids to be able to experience what locally raised beef tastes like and what it looks like,” says Mallory.

Mo Beef Kids provides educational posters to hang up in the cafeteria and fifth graders participate in a special curriculum taught by Mallory and her agri-business students which teaches them about the cattle industry and how the different parts of a cow are used in a variety of ways, from baseballs to burgers.

For many fifth graders, the program also opens their eyes to the different career paths available for them in the industry.

Local beef is one of many locally sourced ingredients on Monett’s menus. The district also receives local pork through a similar program called Mo Pork, and last summer, it installed a greenhouse to grow tomatoes, jalapenos and more.

Farm-to-school will continue to play a role in district’s foodservice program going forward and Mallory is excited to find new ways to connect kids to their meals.

“We just really, really want to do more farm-to-table and we really just want for students to embrace and take value in what we have locally because here in Southwest Missouri, we have so much agriculture,” she says.

Do you have a dish that uses local ingredients on your menu that you would like to see featured in Locally Sourced? Please send an email to Benita Gingerella at benita.gingerella@informa.com



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