My first trip to the Wisconsin Association of Meat Processors was a bit colder than I would have liked, but it was a memorable one. Not only did I get to sneak in a Brewers-Cubs game at Miller Park, but I also was able to take part in an educational and entertaining convention. I’ve been to a couple of state conventions now, and I would highly recommend them for any small processors looking to make friends in the industry or learn some good tips and tricks.

During a bit of free time, I drove out to the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison to see the state of the new meat lab that’s under construction. As you can see from the photo, it’s missing a few key features (walls, for example), but the size of the building is quite impressive. Dr. Jeff Sindelar of UW-Madison spoke about the progress being made and the features of the new lab, and it sounds like Wisconsin will have a world-class facility when it’s officially opened.

Meat Science and Animal Science departments are valuable resources for the meat and poultry industries. After all, they are the pipeline that helps produce talented new workers for the industry, at a time when the industry is in a desperate labor shortage. It goes beyond that, though. Universities conduct research that can lead to new products, technological breakthroughs or food safety improvements. Many offer educational opportunities for people already in the industry, giving you or your current employees a chance to boost your knowledge. Companies looking for interns to help the business should start with their local school, as there are many students who would love some real-world experience. As an aside, please pay your interns. As someone who’s done free internships, I can testify that some pay goes a long way toward creating a positive experience.

Don’t forget to give your meat science departments some support as well. There is a financial aspect to that support, since most public universities are perpetually in a budget crunch. Don’t forget about donating your time, your expertise, and even your facility for field trips as well. Treat your meat science departments as partners in an effort to improve the industry as a whole, and everybody benefits.