The University of Idaho on April 22 announced plans to build a new meat science facility on its main campus in Moscow.
Agri Beef Co. CEO Robert Rebholtz Jr., in a Boise announcement event, said the integrated producer, processor and seller will contribute $2 million.
With a total construction cost of approximately $8 million, the 15,000-square-foot building is slated to be built on Perimeter Drive near the Kibbie Activity Center.
Called the Agri Beef Meat Science and Innovation Center Honoring Ron Richard, the facility will include teaching and research functions as well as Vandal Brand Meats. It will meet growing demand and replace outdated facilities.
Rebholtz said Boise-based Agri Beef strongly supports UI’s goal to create a nationally recognized meat science facility, and looks forward to working with the university and stakeholders.
“That is a major undertaking, and a vision we share,” he said.
Livestock is a substantial economic contributor in Idaho and the Northwest, Rebholtz said, and UI’s efforts to expand and raise the profile of its meat-science research and education offerings stand to benefit the industry broadly.
UI College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Dean Michael Parrella said Agri Beef’s commitment provides a key foundation for the project. About $3.2 million in support from the industry has been secured for the project so far.
It will take about two years to finish raising money and to break ground on the building, which is expected to open in 2022, he said.
Demand for the college’s meat science research and educational offerings is strong among students and the industry, Parrella said. More than 90% of UI meat science graduates find jobs in the field.
Phil Bass, assistant professor of meat science, said the new facility will allow for more practical research in a commercial setting while providing additional education space for industry, consumers and the public.
Other regional companies and individuals in the industry have shown interest in supporting the project, Parrella said in a news release. Northwest Farm Credit Services committed $200,000. CALS internal funding will also be used.
The center will honor Ron Richard, who supervised Vandal Brand Meats student employees and taught meat science classes for three decades. He died last October.
Students, faculty and staff from the Department of Animal and Veterinary Science produce the branded products, named for the university’s mascot. Sales help cover the cost of livestock, supplies, student labor and facility maintenance.
UI said the retail shop each year sells more than $325,000 worth of sausage, steak, hot dogs and hamburgers.