Students get to meat of it

Crystal Mohrhauser

Crystal Mohrhauser

The SDSU Meat Lab has the small town feel of a local butcher shop.

“It contains facilities for animal harvest, carcass fabrication, sausage and cured meat processing, meat smoking and retail sales,” said Neil “Ed” Johnson, the meat research lab manager. “There are two full-time employees — the meat lab manager and a meat chemist — who supervise multiple students.”

The meat lab is located at the west end of the Animal Science Complex and is open for retail sales Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 to 5 p.m.

Johnson, of Pipestone, Minn., has been lab manager for a year. He gained technical experience in the meat industry by working in the meat lab as an undergraduate for over two years.

“Working here taught me almost everything I need to know,” Johnson said. “This is a great opportunity for students who are interested in being involved in the meat science field. (You can) learn more through experience and research.”

Arne Harstad, a junior animal science major from Revillo, hopes to do just that.

“I wanted to learn something new,” Harstad said. “I had no prior experience in the meat industry and now I have learned how diversified the meat industry is. It’s not just steaks anymore.”

One of the ways employees gain experience is through customer relations. The meat lab contains a retail store where students gain customer service skills.

“The meat lab has very high quality products,” said Dan Gee, the South Dakota agricultural and rural leadership executive director.

“You can call in a specific order and they will have it ready for you cut and wrapped to your specifications.”

Gee, a one-time meat lab manager when it was housed in the basement of what is now the Agriculture Heritage Museum, has been a customer at the meat lab for almost 40 years. He said he enjoys the selection of products available to customers.

The meat lab carries fresh beef, pork and lamb along with a special line of cooked products. The Campanile line has seven different meat products. The Dairy Bar also carries a line of Campanile cheese products.

These products allow the Meat Lab to accommodate busy consumers.

“It’s a growing industry. People always eat,” said Robyn Wulf, a senior animal science major from Hancock, Minn.

Wulf, who began working there through a scholarship, cherishes the knowledge, friendships and experience she’s gained in the four- and- a half years she’s worked there.

“It’s a great opportunity for students. We’re not only just fellow workers, we’re a meat lab family,” Wulf said.

Not only does this family help each other learn new skills, but they also do activities together. During their lunch break, the camaraderie is apparent as they play softball every Thursday. They also hold an annual Christmas party together.

#1.885656:3806277354.jpg:Meaty!!!!.jpg:Clint Gehrke, a senior animal science major, inspects a half of a pig at the SDSU Meat Lab.:Mike Carlson