UNL: Animal Science to develop small meat processing plant

Loeffel Meat Shoppe And Food Bank Of Lincoln
Calvin Schrock, Research Manager in Animal Science, cuts a pork carcass Thursday. UNL's Loeffel Meat Laboratory in partnership with the Nebraska Pork Producers Association Pork Cares program process more than 1500 pounds of pork for the Food Bank for the Heartland in Omaha. This is the second donation being processed for food banks. Friends and family of Bill and Nancy Luckey of Columbus donated the pigs. The first donation went to the Lincoln Food Bank. The pigs were harvested and processed at the east campus meat lab. May 28, 2020. Photo by Craig Chandler / University Communication.

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – The University of Nebraska-Lincoln announced plans to develop a small meat processing plant of the future during a roundtable discussion on Feb. 26.

UNL hopes the plant will serve as a regional processing hub for local cattle producers, as well as a prototype for other small facilities.

The plant is planned to be located alongside existing animal science facilities.

The university will look at making equipment upgrades to the Loeffel harvest and processing facility on East Campus.

In addition to upgrades, UNL plans to hire and train staff to maintain regular slaughter operations and establish a suite of resources for those looking to set up or expand small processing operations.

UNL believes the plant will have a multiplying effect across the region.

The plant aims to address, “COVID-19 pandemic illuminated issues that small meat processors had faced for years, including the insufficient capacity of small processors to keep up with rising demand, barriers to implementing new technologies, and widespread workforce shortages,” said Clint Krehbiel, head of the university’s Department of Animal Science.

The plant will include an internship program that will pair meat science students with small meat processing businesses across the state.

Both degree and non-degree programs are being considered for the initiative.

Anticipated programs include:

  • workshops for employees new to the meat processing industry
  • partnerships with community colleges
  • continuing education opportunities for more experienced meat processors

UNL Attended the roundtable discussion just two days after the USDA announced the availability of $215 million in grants.

Funding is made available to expand meat and poultry processing options, strengthen the food supply chain, and create jobs and economic opportunities in rural areas.

The university hopes to look to this program as one potential source of funds; other fundraising efforts for the plant are already underway.

Chad Lottman, who attended the roundtable, said the discussion on workforce development caught his attention.

Lottman and his wife, Courtney, own Landmark Snacks in Beatrice, the facility produces meat sticks and other processed snack foods, employing about 200 people.

Lottman said an internship program, in particular, would be valuable to his business, which already employs several Husker graduates in its food safety division.

UNL anticipates that some workforce development programs could be in place by fall.  Additional programming and faculty improvements will follow in the coming years.

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