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Dr. Phil Bass, corporate meat scientist at Certified Angus Beef, discusses how the company opened up the new meat lab and what innovative educational opportunities the company has been able to pursue.
Andy Hanacek: Phil, thanks for letting me visit here for just a brief few hours to see your new meat lab here. It’s been about a year since you guys built the meat lab here. Tell me a little bit about why you expanded it [and] built basically on a parking lot a new addition to the education and culinary center. Why… other than to help the customers? What was the reasoning?
Dr. Phil Bass: We’ve had such great success with our education and culinary center with the original meat room that we used to cut in, but it was shared somewhat with our chef team. It wasn’t refrigerated. It was functional but needed some upgrades, so we were fortunate enough to have some good years, some great support by our board to continue expanding on this educational program we have put together with this meat lab, so we’ve actually grew out into what used to be the parking lot. We’ve expanded our cut room floor by about 50 percent. We have our own dedicated cooler. We have a rail that is continuous and goes to the outside door, so we can receive quarters of beef and it is very easy and convenient for those who are dropping that off. We’ve been able to add additional cutting tables. We have digital components to a large screen TV so we can use any type of computer program. For example, maybe we are conducting yield tests and we are trying to calculate true product costs or realized sales values, we can put that up on the screen so that everyone can see the calculations that are going on. Additionally we just have more room to move around, which is a safety feature, but also additional cooling capabilities. So the meat looks better, and we feel better about serving it to folks later on.
Hanacek: So this has been part of an overall expansion of your team in general. You also added another meat scientist. What has all of this combined allowed you to do in the last year or so that maybe you weren’t able to do before? Has there been more education done or different types of education? Everything with you is an event and an adventure. Has the additional staff allowed you to do more and if so what?
Bass: We have been fortunate enough to add an additional meat scientist Diana Clark. She has her [Bachelor of Science] and Master’s degree in meat science from University of Illinois. She is a wealth of knowledge. She has amazing knife skills and has a great personality to go along with it. She can help conduct meat cutting demonstrations or lead groups when I may need to be traveling or work on another project. She’s really worked to free up some of my time to work on those other projects and to really just expand the education we are able to do.
Hanacek: In the past year, have you added educational opportunities for your customers and for other folks?
Bass: One of the really cool things that especially Diana brought in is that we have been focusing a lot on the barbecue community. Diana has a great understanding of the smoking and the cookery that goes along with that. We have had summits where we talked with specifically barbecue-type restaurants or those that are interested in that. We can take some of our cut knowledge and directly apply it to some of those outlets that can use some of those… maybe not quite mainstream cuts or cuts that are undervalued and really drive some profitability to those folks.