The J and G Lau Meat Processing Center, a new teaching facility for students, opens for public viewing on Saturday. The facility is intended for student use and as a place for undergraduates to do research.
The center is the newest meat processing facility in the United States, measuring approximately 14,500 square feet. The facility will give students an opportunity to learn about and work in areas of humane harvest, fabrication, ready-to-eat products, food safety and packaging.
“The whole plant is designed with the concept of considerable food safety and having procedures in place,” animal science department head Andy Thulin said. “It’s designed so we minimize any food contamination. You’ll see some interesting and unique design features to reduce food contamination and it has a test kitchen, for developing ready-to-eat type products.”
The facility will also contain a packaging innovation lab to allow students to do research on what type of packaging would be most appealing to buyers, Thulin said.
Along with new equipment, the facility will also have a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspector walk the floors and make sure students are following codes.
Animal science freshmen Marc Munoz said he is looking forward to the quality of the new meat processing plant in comparison to where students are currently taking classes.
“The meat processing plant we use now is the minimum of what a processing plant should be,” Munoz said. “There is going to be a USDA inspector walking around. There are some things you have to make sure you do by the law, so he’ll make sure that’s done right. You have to do it right the first time, or you have to shut down and fix it. It’s going to be a legitimate Learn By Doing experience.”
A main goal of the facility is to prepare students for a career after college. The facility plans to do this by allowing students to do industry research and product development alongside faculty and mirror what the industry is currently doing.
Students said they feel that the new meat processing center will provide these opportunities and a better learning atmosphere.
“I think it will give more opportunities to students because it’ll be on campus, and it’s going to be a more hands-on experience and more of a Learn By Doing experience,” animal science junior Kristen Schlotman said.
The cost to build the facility was $6.5 million, most of which was donated by the J & G Lau family, private donations and the industry. The rest of the money used to build the facility was given by the Poly Canyon Village Housing Project.
“The reason for the donation was our meat processing facility, the Abattoir, was located where the Poly Canyon Village is located, it was part of (its) relocation,” Thulin said “In this case, there wasn’t enough money to cover it all, so the industry stepped up and donated money.”
The facility is still currently under construction, but Thulin said the goal is for students to be able to have access and classes offered to them at the facility next quarter.
“Were hoping to be complete and operational in January, so we can start the winter courses in there,” Thulin said. “That’s our goal, but we’re still working.”
Thulin encourages students to visit the meat processing center on Saturday from 2 to 5 p.m. to see the newest technology in food processing.