Large-scale beef donations are catching on in Eastern Oregon.

This past summer, six ranches in Harney and Malheur counties donated 32 head of cattle, totaling about 12,000 pounds of hamburger, to the Southeast Oregon Regional Food Bank in Ontario, Ore.

The beef went to 16 agencies supplied by the Regional Food Bank; the Idaho Food Bank, which helped with storage; and the Oregon Food Bank Network, an organization of 20 regional food banks. Farmers Ending Hunger paid for transportation.

"This was a really fantastic partnership between a number of entities," said Peter Lawson, branch coordinator for the Southeast Oregon Regional Food Bank.

Kenny Bentz, with V-Cattle Co. in Burns, Ore., said donating an animal rather than processed beef makes sense to ranchers.

"If you can figure out how to make it really simple for the person who is donating, then getting donations is easy," Bentz said. "We produce live animals. If I can donate what I produce, that's the essence of what you're trying to get done."

With grant money for processing and transportation, more pounds of meat go into the program by donating a live animal than by simply writing a check for the value of that animal.

Though not the ranchers' prime motivation, public relations plays a part in the beef donations.

"It's not often you get a positive spin on the ranching community. But we kind of think if we could have some little kid someplace have something to eat, we've certainly got the meat and we're tickled to death to think we could get something to those people," Bentz said.

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