Meat Chemistry and Cuisine: Using a proven method to train extension agents and other professionals serving small-scale and limited resource producers

Progress report for ES20-156

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2020: $80,805.00
Projected End Date: 06/30/2022
Grant Recipients: Mississippi State University; Tuskegee University; Alcorn State University
Region: Southern
State: Mississippi
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Derris Burnett, PHD
Animal and Dairy Sciences Mississippi State Univer
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Project Information

Abstract:

The consolidation of the meat packing industry among the larger conglomerates has effectively shut out small scale producers from efficient and reputable resources to harvest, process, and market their product. Couple this with persistent inefficiencies and pervasive misinformation, and the long-term sustainability of the meat processing and marketing outlets for small and underserved food animal producers is in jeopardy. The overall objective of this proposal is to create a farm-to-fork meat processing curriculum targeting extension agents, existing processors, and frontline professionals that serve these limited resource farmers in the meat production industry and to deliver it with an interactive mobile meat processing system. This programming will improve their confidence and competence in meat animal processing allowing them to more effectively serve their citizenry and clientele. We will design and build a mobile meat processing unit capable of cold storage, fabrication, processing, marketing, and cookery. We will then develop and implement six, two-day mobile training workshops that focus the 4 key meat processing concepts of value-added processing, safety, marketing, and cookery to increase the productivity and sustainability of small-scale producers. These workshops will take place at the regional extension center in each of the 4 Mississippi Extension Service regions, and one each at Alcorn State and Tuskegee Universities for their annual goat producer programs. By equipping our agents and existing processors with this valuable training, they can help small producers implement more sustainable management strategies that are driven by an improved understanding of the end products that satisfy their specific markets.

Project Objectives:

The overall objective of this proposal is to create a farm-to-fork meat processing curriculum targeting extension agents, existing processors, and frontline professionals that serve limited resource farmers in the meat production industry and to deliver it with an interactive mobile meat processing system. We have assembled a team of experts in meat processing (Mr. Tim Armstrong), muscle biology (Dr. Derris Burnett), meat chemistry (Dr. Thu Dinh), value-added processing (Dr. Wes Schilling), HACCP and Marination (Drs. Byron Williams and Courtney Crist), and food safety (Drs. Shecoya White and Juan Silva). This team will deliver credible training based on current scientific, regulatory, and technological meat industry practices. This novel approach will ultimately improve the livelihood of small farmers and their local communities as they confidently and competently supply safe and wholesome products directly to their region. The specific activities proposed are to:

  1. Design and build a mobile meat processing unit capable of cold storage, fabrication, processing, marketing, and cookery to deliver a farm-to-fork training experience for extension agents and front-line professionals. Based on the successes and improvements of our current small-scale mobile demonstration system, we will develop a dynamic, compliant, and interactive meat processing trailer for science based, farm-to-fork meat processing training and demonstrations. This mobile unit will be capable of cold storage, fabrication, processing, and cookery demonstrations in a dynamic and experiential setting aimed at improving the competence of the target audience and ultimately of their constituencies.
  1. Develop and implement six, two-day mobile training workshops that focus on value-added processing, safety, marketing, and cookery to increase the productivity and sustainability of small-scale producers. This includes one at the regional extension center in each of the 4 Mississippi Extension Service regions, and one each at Alcorn State and Tuskegee Universities for their annual goat producer programs. We will demonstrate the principles of processing, packaging, marketing, and cookery in a simulated regulatory environment. By participating in these workshops, extension agents, existing processors, and other professionals will “learn by doing,” which will improve comprehension and retention of these principles. With a demonstrable history of providing mobile programming to producers, and our proven pedagogical “Meat Chemistry and Cuisine” program, we are well equipped to deliver this training in a manner that creates an impactful and enduring skillset for participants. 
  1. Empower and support a network of small farmers and co-operatives to maximize the use and efficiency of the mobile programming in outlying years. This unit will continue to serve as a valuable tool for the target audiences including continued education of extension agents and farmers beyond the funding period through the continued progressive and modular curricula. Advanced workshops can be designed to build on the basic principles and address specialty topics as they become relevant to the industry. In addition, this facility can be used to provide introductory experiential programming for K-14 students at local schools and junior colleges which will help sustain the talent pipeline necessary to ensure the long term sustainability and viability of the small scale meat production pipeline.

By equipping our agents and existing processors with this valuable training, they can help small producers implement more sustainable management strategies that are driven by an improved understanding of the end products that satisfy their specific markets. Eliminating inefficient management practices that do not directly augment the quality or quantity of their products will ultimately increase the sustainability and profitability of the meat production pipeline for small producers in the Southeast. This will also instill the confidence and competencies necessary for small-scale producers to interact with local processors and marketing outlets to merchandise and retail their products. Participants will be given pre- and post assessments on their understanding of 4 key meat processing concepts: value-added processing, food safety, marketing, and cookery. Success of the program will be determined by the ability to effectively improve the knowledge base of the participants in these categories such that they can implement these concepts as they provide scientifically sound guidance and advice for local producers and processors.  We will also enlist an outside evaluator to assess the overall effectiveness of the programs content and delivery.

Cooperators

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  • Sylvester Adams - Producer

Education

Educational approach:

The approach used in this project is to use the basic components of Anatomy, Biology, and Chemistry (ABCs) to teach producers, processors, and other frontline meat industry personnel about novel strategies to process, market, and cook meat products. Each lesson generally begins with identifying a specific cut of meat from a selected species and then explaining the anatomical, biological, and chemical components of the muscles that make up the cut. Using this information, we can more effectively prepare recipes and marketing strategies that complement these intrinsic properties. This approach is especially useful in the small ruminant arena where these products are less mainstream and producers/consumers may lack the confidence and/or competence to prepare and market these products. These create hinderances to more widespread adoption outside of niche groups. This dynamic learning environment helps to instill that confidence and competence so that producers, processors, etc. can more effectively market and encourage consumption of these products.

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Meat Chemistry and Cuisine: A novel pedagogical method and delivery system
Objective:

Using a virtual platform to teach producers and processors on the ABCs of goat meat chemistry and cuisine and the utility of a mobile processing unit to increase delivery and consumption of goat meat products.

Description:

This presentation was given at 2 virtual field days (Tuskegee University Goat Day and Langston University Sheep and Goat Field Day). We used these virtual platforms to pilot our Meat Chemistry and Cuisine curriculum to stakeholders in the small ruminant meat industry. There were over 60 attendees to the Tuskegee event and over 30 for the Langston University event. 

Outcomes and impacts:

Producers and processors came away from these events interested in the potential for mobile processing units (MPU’s) to improve access to processing facilities and creating a farm to fork pipeline for current and new consumers. By delivering this programming, these producers realized that they can retain or obtain more value out of their livestock by processing them into products for the end consumer. They also learned about regulatory requirements and recipes for making these products readily available to their clientele.

Educational & Outreach Activities

5 Consultations
2 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
2 Tours
2 Webinars / talks / presentations
2 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

20 Extension
5 Researchers
25 Farmers/ranchers
10 Others

Learning Outcomes

60 Participants gained or increased knowledge, skills and/or attitudes about sustainable agriculture topics, practices, strategies, approaches
5 Ag professionals intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned

Project Outcomes

1 Grant received that built upon this project
3 New working collaborations
30 Farmers reached through participant's programs
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.