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Students Learn to Process Meat at WSU & BMCC

Meat labs and classes at colleges and universities around the country contribute to our future livestock industry by preparing students for careers in this important aspect of food production. There are several good programs in the PNW that provide this opportunity for students. Washington State University in Pullman, has a program in which cattle raised at the university’s Beef Center can be utilized for teaching students about raising and caring for beef animals, and meat processing. The beef program produces Angus and Wagyu. Built in the early 1970s, the 16,000-square foot WSU meat laboratory also serves the needs of local customers with custom slaughter and fabrication services. Students experience all phases of meat processing for 12 weeks in the semester. They also do meat judging clinics and contests at our University Meat Lab. Dan Snyder manages the Meat Lab and has worked there for 38 years. They process about 500 head of livestock each year, which includes cattle, hogs, sheep and goats. We did about 200 cattle this past year. Dan employs 5 to 7 students per semester and they learn what goes on in a processing facility. The Meat Lab also has a new retail store. “Meat processing is expensive, so we recover some of the costs by merchandizing some of our meat products through this retail store.” Blue Mountain College The Meat Science Lab at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, Ore., is a modern processing facility built in 2016. An integral part of the Ag classes is first-hand experience in breeding, raising, and processing animals. This experience provides understanding of how animal genetics, nutrition, and handling aid in achieving a finished product. The Meat Science Lab also accepts custom processing orders from the public. Cattle, swine, sheep, and goats can be processed in this facility. In 2023, BMCC received a $300,000 grant from the Oregon State University Extension Service to expand the meat science program and hire a Meat Lab Manager. This is part of a collaborative, multi-state program lead by OSU Extension’s Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network (NMPAN) to help solve workforce issues in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. The funds are part of a larger grant through the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) Meat and Poultry Processing Agricultural Workforce Training Program. BMCC is working with OSU Extension’s NMPAN team to design a certification program to help address the shortage of entry-level employees in the meat processing industry and fill the gap in meat cutting training, an opportunity that only a few colleges and universities offer across the nation

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