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Virginia Tech Meat Science Center offers education for careers in meat processing
By JANE W. GRAHAM
BLACKSBURG, Va. (Feb. 7, 2017) — Enthusiasm is a driving force in the Virginia Tech Meat Science Center.
This facility at the top of the school’s main campus is designed to lead agricultural students to an understanding of the final segments of meat production; processing and marketing.
“Our goal is to make the students very well-rounded in the meat industry,” said Jordan Wicks, manager of the center.
The center, also known as the meat lab, harvests animals used in various research projects in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences as well as other colleges within the university. On Fridays, the some of the meat is available for retail sale.
Wicks employees 14 students in the center and works to see that they have a complete understanding of meat processing. She said for some it leads to careers in meat processing.
“The Virginia Tech Meat Science Center, does not only work to create a learning environment for the student employees, but it is also a very critical part of educating all students in Animal Sciences on Meat Science and industry,” Wicks said. “Many classes, utilize the Meat Center each week to illustrate different aspects of meat science to the students. These uses include anything from the harvesting process to sanitation, and even into muscle biology and postmortem muscle metabolism. The Meat Center typically aids in the education of different classes each year.”
She stressed that all the meat is inspected by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Daniel Boyer, a Grayson County native who grew up on a farm and is a recent Virginia Tech graduate, is assistant manager of the center.
He said he found his niche in the industry in meat processing at the center.
Other students use the experiences to become well rounded in their understanding of agriculture including the preparation of product for sale and marking it.
“I would tell a parent that the meat industry is an ever-growing one,” Wicks said. “There are no lack of jobs. It is a global industry, a great industry to make a career.
“It is one of the largest industries in the world.”
She added the student workers learn by doing, gain a lot of real life experiences and are challenged every day.
Wicks offers an intensive three-week course during winter break for students to concentrate on their meat processing learning and skills.
The first week is taught online and then students move into the classroom for lessons in slaughter, meat cutting, packaging and marketing. Sanitation and food safety are at the forefront in all of the training and teaching at the center, Wicks said.
Wicks also stressed the retail operation’s purpose is not to compete with anyone but to educate students and the public.
The center does not do custom slaughter of animals not owned by the university and Wicks said she is glad to refer those who need this service to those qualified to do this work.