Prairie View A&M University, located 45 miles northwest of Houston in Prairie View, Texas, has a brand-new Meat Science Center to continue the vision of the late Lindsey Weatherspoon, renowned College of Agriculture and Human Sciences professor who expanded meat science studies at PVAMU in the 1960’s.

“I want to put this program on the map” said Dr. Lea Ann Kinman, Ph.D., inaugural director of the PVAMU MSC. Kinman arrived at PVAMU in spring 2022 with clear objectives and goals to increase exposure of the new facility and bring more students into the lab to explore and pursue careers in meat science.

Founded in 1876, PVAMU is an 1890 land grant institution that has a triple-mission of research, teaching, and extension to serve communities within Texas. The MSC is an 8,220-square-foot building on the 778-acre Gov. Bill and Vara Daniel Farm and Ranch. The facility includes a dry lab, multiple freezers and coolers, classroom space, and rooms for harvesting, processing, and packaging.

Construction was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, with both organizations having long-standing relationships with PVAMU.

“This facility will greatly benefit students,” said Dr. Gerard D’Souza, CAHS dean and director of Land Grant Programs. “It will enhance their skill set through experiential learning. Those learning objectives include food handling and processing, adding value to meat products, and working alongside faculty mentors to create exciting new project innovations. It will make them more marketable and ultimately, more productive people.”

The MSC continues the land grant mission of research, teaching, and extension, and provides exposure and opportunities to both internal and external stakeholders.

“My vision is to make Prairie View more visible to the greater community and the new MSC will help with that,” Kinman said. “I have created an immersive, hands-on environment to introduce students to meat science, and expose them to the various careers within the meat and poultry industry.”

Each semester in ANSC 3352 Meat Science, students will learn muscle physiology, carcass fabrication, ingredient functionality, and processed meat product formulations, all while creating a transferable skill set. This experiential learning environment will provide the students with technical skills and help them understand the connection between course content and practical application, better preparing them to enter the workforce.

At PVAMU, the MSC Research Technician II has a long history of working with the university. Before working at the new facility, James Smith worked on the Gov. Bill and Vara Daniel Farm and Ranch that is home to the MSC and an expansive goat breeding facility.

“I am excited to have James on board, as he brings a wealth of experience with goats, a primary area of research for CAHS,” Kinman said.

Speaking of goats, PVAMU is also home to the International Goat Research Center that aims to advance the science of dairy and meat goat production and use this information to improve the livelihoods of the people in Texas, the Gulf Coast region and developing countries abroad. Current collaborative research between the MSC and IGRC includes evaluating carcass characteristics and meat quality for the Sustainable Goat Production Practices Project for Texas and the Gulf Coast.

“Texas is a top producer of meat and dairy goats so having a world-renowned research center to partner with is an honor,” Kinman said.

With a focus on the extension aspect of the land grant institution mission, Kinman recognizes the value in establishing partnerships that will strengthen economic development in rural communities throughout the state of Texas and beyond.

Having student workers in the Meat Science Center reinforces Kinman’s passion of providing experiential learning to students to ensure they are industry-ready. Joshua Evans, an agriculture major with a focus in pre-veterinary medicine, loves the new meat science center and has direct access to great mentors.

“Since starting at the meat science center here at PVAMU, I have had many great experiences. I really enjoy working with Dr. Kinman and James and I love how hands-on the job is and how everyone here is willing to teach and learn from one another,” Evans said.

In addition to student workers, we currently have a Texas Department of Labor-approved apprenticeship in butchery through the PVAMU Rural Workforce Academy. Through the PVAMU Cooperative Extension Program, the TRWA provides a variety of skilled trades training, certification, and job placement to rural counties impacted by disasters. This partnership extends Kinman’s goal of increasing exposure and creates a talent pipeline for the meat science industry.

The future of the facility includes creating a student-led storefront, PV Meats, that will offer a variety of products available for purchase by faculty, students, and the community. As a method of generating student scholarships, the MSC staff and students partner with the Texas Steak Cookoff in Hico, lending their skills to cut 3,000 ribeye steaks every year for the event. We are constantly looking for ways to partner with other organizations and continue the work of keeping the meat science industry at the forefront of agriculture education.