The University of Idaho has announced plans to build a new meat science and innovation center that will house Vandal Brand Meats on the Moscow campus with the help of Agri Beef Co. of Boise. The new Agri Beef Meat Science and Innovation Center Honoring Ron Richard will replace the existing, outdated meat science facility on campus and create a modern teaching, research and retail sales center, the school said in a statement.

The new building will honor the legacy of Ron Richard, who supervised Vandal Brand Meats student employees and taught meat science classes for three decades before his death in October 2018. Richard’s students learned the science and the practical aspects of supplying nutritious, safe and innovative meat products to businesses and the public.

Agri Beef, one of Idaho’s best-known integrated meat processors, committed $2 million toward supporting the $8 million project on the U of I campus near the iconic ASUI-Kibbie Activity Center.

The U of I College of Agricultural and Life Sciences proposed the new building to modernize its processing, research and education options. In addition to enhancing the only local USDA-inspected processing plant, the new building will offer expanded facilities to meet a growing interest from students and industry.

“This commitment provides the foundation for the college to meet the demand for more educational opportunities in meat science,” CALS Dean Michael P. Parrella said.

Other regional companies and individuals in the livestock industry have shown strong interest in supporting the project financially including a $200,000 commitment from Northwest Farm Credit Services. The college will use internal funding for the project as well, Parrella said.

The college’s Department of Animal and Veterinary Science provides strong undergraduate and graduate education programs in meat science that supply highly sought-after employees. More than 90 percent of meat science graduates find jobs in the field.

Employers value the department’s hands-on experience for students through the Vandal Brand Meats program, Parrella said. Each year, the retail shop sells more than $325,000 worth of meat products sausage, steaks, hotdogs and hamburger produced by students.

The new facility will capitalize on a highly visible location to expand the public’s ability to buy products and learn about the college’s meat science program.

This development underscores the economic importance of the livestock industry in the northwest and complements other college-led efforts to expand the university’s livestock-related education, research and Extension capacity across the state.

Those efforts include a new classroom and office building nearing completion at the Nancy M. Cummings Research, Extension and Education Center near Salmon. The U of I is also leading development of the $45 million Idaho Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment near Rupert and Jerome and the operation of the Rinker Rock Creek Ranch near Hailey.

Source: University of Idaho