Remaining true to its "learn by doing" philosophy, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo has a new meat processing facility that will serve student and industry research and product development.

The nearly 15,000-square-foot J and G Lau Meat Processing Center, which opened fall quarter, will offer hands-on experience in animal slaughter, butchering, food safety, packaging and development of ready to eat meat products.

The USDA-inspected facility has a harvest floor that allows separation between hide-on and hide-off rooms when working with beef, veal, lamb, pork and goat. It has separate chicken and turkey processing areas and a fabrication and processing space that can be cooled to 40 degrees for sanitation. It includes a food safety lab, thermal processing kitchen and a ready-to-eat packaging lab.

A conference room in the center is named after long-time National Meat Association Executive Director Emeritus Rosemary Mucklow.

Nearly all of the $6.5 million cost of the new facility came from private donors, with the J and G Lau family of Modesto donating $1 million. Harris Ranch was also a partner in the project, which was started in 2006. The center replaces separate harvest and processing facilities.

Animal Science Department head Andy Thulin said the center will allow students to collaborate with the meat industry on leading edge practices in food production.

Instructor Robert Delmore said that more than 200 students a year are now taking meat science classes. They are still determining what their exact business model will be, Delmore added, but they plan to harvest Cal Poly animals as part of their processing experience.

Thulin said the center will also be a resource for smaller meat processors who can try out recipes in smaller batches.

The products will be marketed through the school's on-campus store, Delmore said.

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