Eastern Oregon ranchers are considering a mobile slaughtering plant in Baker County to process beef that's now hauled out of state.

Over the last 30 years, dozens of Oregon plants have been shut down, said Dan Forsea, president of the Baker County Livestock Association.

"Right now, the closest place for us to haul our cattle (for slaughtering) is in the Boise area," he said.

Some of the processed meat gets hauled right back to Baker County for a "beef to schools" program.

Financial and environmental considerations have weighed against building a meat processing plant in Oregon. But Forsea said Joel Huesby, a rancher near Walla Walla, Wash., has built one of the first mobile slaughtering plants the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved.

He says that could be a model for one in Oregon. He had Huesby in Baker County recently to talk to ranchers.

"I had Joel come down and talk about his mobile plan t, thinking maybe it might get a fire burnt in some of the people around here to get something going," Forsea said.

Huesby slaughters cattle for hire, but he told the Baker County ranchers his primary purpose is to process his own brand of grass-fed cattle, which he markets through the Internet and selected grocery stores and meat markets.

Huesby said he saw it as a way to increase the value of his cattle and cattle raised by other ranchers around Walla Walla County and other areas.

Forsea said setting up a mobile plant in Baker County would open opportunities for area ranchers to imitate Huesby in marketing directly to the public.

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