Washington State reinvigorates its meat science programs
The Department of Animal Sciences at Washington State University (WSU) with approximately 550 undergraduate students has recently reinvigorated its offering of meat science-focused classes, extension programs, and student opportunities.
The program has strong historic roots in the discipline with ties to well-recognized meat scientists, including Drs. Gary Smith, Everett Martin, Gordon Davis, Jan Busboom, Matt Doumit, and Carol Lorenzen, among many others.
In summer 2022, the department hired Dr. Blake Foraker to lead the reinvigoration efforts of the meat science program. In addition, WSU alumnus and longtime meat scientist at Kansas State University, Dr. John Unruh returned to Pullman as a full-time resident and joined the department to serve in a lecturer position.
Built in the early 1970’s, the 16,000-square-foot WSU meat laboratory primarily serves the needs of local customers through its offering of custom slaughter and fabrication services. The facility also produces Angus and Wagyu beef, which is marketed as WSU Premium Beef and WSU Premium Wagyu, respectively, from cattle raised at the WSU Beef Center just 7 miles from campus. Recent modifications to the facility include a research/teaching kitchen, fully equipped teaching classroom, modernized animal handling and receiving, and a public-facing retail storefront. The meat laboratory manager, Dan Snyder, provides a wealth of experience to customers and students, having worked at the facility for 37 years. The facility employs five undergraduate students and one undergraduate student intern. A smoked beef and pork sausage, coined the Cougar Smokie, has been a time-tested feature of the facility. Plans are underway to expand the facility’s offering of products to an array of beef, pork, and lamb retail cuts to be marketed under the label Cougar Quality Meats.
For the first time in many years, students are enrolled in the Meat Science and the Livestock and Carcass Evaluation courses at WSU. Previously, students at WSU interested in such courses were required to enroll in the cross-listed version of these courses at the University of Idaho, just a 10-minute drive from Pullman. These new course offerings at WSU expose students to hands-on learning opportunities at the meat laboratory each week. Some of these tangible learning opportunities include the evaluation of livestock on the hoof and on the rail, evaluation of sensory properties of meat, and fabrication of carcasses into retail cuts. It is expected that these newly provided learning opportunities will position WSU as a leading source of well-trained students for the meat industry in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.
The program also features a meat judging team and a meat animal evaluation team for students to gain additional training in the discipline outside of the classroom and in a competitive atmosphere. The newly formed WSU meat judging team recently claimed back-to-back championship honors in the A-division intercollegiate meat judging contests at the National Western Stock Show and the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, the first wins for the program in more than 50 years. The current meat judging and meat animal evaluation team is comprised of 11 Junior and Senior level students. The team offers a barbecue catering service as a fundraiser to support team travel to national contests.
The program also hosts learning opportunities for youth interested in meat and livestock production. The inaugural Cougar Invitational youth meat judging clinic and contest is planned for mid-March 2023. Additionally, the meat laboratory regularly opens its door for 4-H and FFA teams to prepare for upcoming contests. The program offers services for livestock judging and carcass shows at local and regional youth livestock shows and fairs.
For more information about WSU Animal Science, visit ansci.wsu.edu. Specific questions about WSU meat science can be directed to Dr. Blake Foraker, firstname.lastname@example.org, 509-335-4112.