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A recent Missoula Chamber of Commerce e-mail that encouraged its members to sponsor the chamber's upcoming Agri-Business Banquet left a funny taste in our mouths—a taste similar to, say, downing a soggy, three-day-old Big Mac after it's been zapped in the microwave.

The e-mail stated that the Feb. 10 event, organized to "support local farmers and ranchers," is being sponsored by, among others, five McDonald's locations from Polson to Hamilton. The irony was as thick as the fast food joint's hot mustard dipping sauce.

So we asked the chamber how Mickey D's, of all restaurants, the world's largest buyer of meat products, in any way supports local farmers and ranchers.

"They actually buy a good portion of their meat from our farmers and ranchers in Montana," said Kathy Giffin, the chamber's director of programs and events.

Great news, we thought. "Robble, robble!" But before we headed for the drive-thru to grab Happy Meals even a locavore could love, we called corporate. Turns out, it was too good to be true, sort of like a lot of things McDonald's serves. (see: Rib, Mc.)

"We looked into it," said Katie Conway, a McDonald's public relations manager, "and the national supply chain is telling me we don't have any beef suppliers anywhere in your area. We are still one of the largest purchasers of U.S. beef—our preference is always to purchase domestically—but we don't have any specific suppliers in Montana."

We grimaced. Our glee was hamburglared away. But there was a McNugget of consolation. In 2007, McDonald's purchased more than 15 million pounds of flour from Montana producers, worth almost $2.4 million, Conway reported. And there might have been more purchases since, but those figures won't be made available for a couple months.

Giffin at the Chamber of Commerce apologized for the confusion, and defended McDonald's participation in the event.

"As you know," she said, "farmers and ranchers shop and eat in the Missoula community. They shop at Quality Supply. They get their trucks at Bitterroot Motors or Karl Tyler. So they support our businesses on a daily basis, both financially and with the food that we eat. So the Agri-Business Banquet is an opportunity for community businesses to thank them."

Yes, a thank you is in order. We just think McDonald's should thank local farmers and ranchers by actually buying more products from them.

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