University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY
Animal Science Department
Dr. Bledar Bisha

Meat science and food science have been established programs at the University of Wyoming for several decades. Dr. Carroll “Schoony” Schoonover, Wyoming Beef Extension Specialist in the ‘60s, attended the 1962 Reciprocal Meat Conference. While there, he interviewed Dr. Ray A. Field to fill the first meat science faculty position at the University of Wyoming. Dr. Field spearheaded the University of Wyoming’s efforts in formal meat science teaching, research, and extension. 

Scientists since then have worked to study an array of meat science and interdisciplinary topics, and it has been these research efforts that have initially propelled our program into the exciting one it is today. Not only were these early scientists adept at building a research program, but they also prioritized undergraduate teaching in the discipline. This allowed UW to educate and prepare more and more students wanting to make their careers in the field. 

Historically, classes offered to students included fresh meat processing, muscle and meat identification, poultry and game slaughter, meat evaluation, and muscle biology. Many of these are still being taught today. The current group of meat science faculty and staff is proud of the work that has been done historically and excited to continue growing the meat science student and research program at the University of Wyoming.

A large part of our current efforts involve introducing students to the meat science discipline and meat industry, and then cultivating interest into action towards an established career in the field. Many students in our College of Agriculture and Natural Resources come from farming and ranching backgrounds but may not completely understand the many facets of moving livestock from their pastures to a consumer’s plate. We offer a wide variety of coursework that draws their attention to the inter-relatedness of the livestock and meat industries. 

Our meat science curriculum is housed within the Animal Science Department, so our students are trained as well-versed animal scientists in core disciplines like nutrition, reproduction, animal breeding, etc. All of our animal science students are required to take our Meat and Muscle Biology course, which provides a comprehensive overview of meat science and its broader industry. The students who gravitate towards meat science appreciate the breadth of course offerings within a formally recognized Meat Science and Food Technology degree option. The 32 elective credit hours offered in this option allows students opportunity to gain a diverse knowledge and skillset in animal growth, meat processing, microbiology, and food safety. 

Somewhat unique to the University of Wyoming is our ability to train students in meat production. We offer three separate courses (livestock slaughter, carcass fabrication, and meat processing) focused on building skill sets and confidence in completing production-oriented tasks. At the same time students are building skills, they are applying the science-based principles from their expertise in basic meat and muscle biology. These courses are very much lab-based; students spend over 80% of class time in the UW Meat Lab growing their proficiency in harvest, cutting, and further processing.  

Students who are taking the meats courses often become interested in working in the UW Meat Lab. Our meat lab manager employs many students to help him facilitate the teaching and research needs within the department. A unique task for these students is to assist in production of further processed products marketed through the UW Cowboy Branded Meats program. This program was established in the mid-2000s and focused on building a brand to market fresh and processed meat products made “by students, for students.” In 2017, the program was highly supported by administrators at the University of Wyoming, causing it to grow extensively. Cowboy Branded Meats products offered today include fresh beef, pork, and lamb retail packages, bacon, two varieties of beef summer sausage, and five to seven flavors of snack sticks. 

Each year, the Cowboy Branded Meats student intern works to maintain the program’s presence on campus and in the Laramie community. Interns regularly communicate with vendors to keep up with product stocking at more than five highly visible locations in town. Depending on the intern’s interest, they have the opportunity to supplement their customer relation work with production in the meat lab or marketing through social media avenues. This tailored experience is an excellent way for students to gain experience and create a network within our community. 

More information about the University of Wyoming’s Animal Science department and meat science program can be found at: