The University of Idaho announced plans April 22 to build a new meat science and innovation center that will house Vandal Brand Meats on the Moscow, Ida., campus, with the help of Agri Beef Co.
The new Agri Beef Meat Science & Innovation Center Honoring Ron Richard will replace the existing, outdated meat science facility on campus and create a modern teaching, research and retail sales center, the university said in an announcement.
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 University of Idaho campus near the ASUI-Kibbie Activity Center.
According to the announcement, the university's College of Agricultural & Life Sciences (CALS) proposed the new building to modernize its processing, research and education options. In addition to enhancing the only local U.S. Department of Agriculture-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.
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 -- such as sausage, steaks, hot dogs 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 CALS’s meat science program, the university said.
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 & Education Center near Salmon, Ida. The University of Idaho is also leading the development of the $45 million Idaho Center for Agriculture, Food & the Environment — which will be the nation's largest research dairy — near Rupert and Jerome, Ida., and the operation of the Rinker Rock Creek Ranch near Hailey, Ida.