The pandemic accentuated a need for new capabilities in the local and regional meat processing space to support farmers. In response, the Minnesota Legislature appropriated $500,000 during the 2021 legislative session for matching-fund grants for organizations to acquire, host and operate a mobile slaughter unit. The legislature then designated the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI) to create and administer a grant program to enable interested Minnesota entities to access these grant dollars. This program aims to benefit the Minnesota livestock industry by supporting education, research, training and value-added product development.
AURI released a request for proposals during the fall of 2021 to identify an entity to receive funds for a mobile slaughter unit that would also coordinate with Minnesota’s two-year colleges that have meat cutting programs to accommodate education and training as it relates to animal slaughter and processing.
Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) was selected to receive the grant. MFU will collaborate with Central Lakes College and Ridgewater College in an effort to build capacity to address the gap in small-to-medium-sized meat processing by purchasing a new mobile meat processing unit.
Through the partnership between MFU and the colleges, the mobile slaughter unit will serve a dual purpose. At different times throughout the grant, the educational institutions will use the unit as a component of their new meat processing programs. Currently, Central Lakes College is planning for one meat processing certification program while Ridgewater College has plans for a program with three different certification levels. When the slaughter unit is not used by the colleges, MFU plans to put it into use around the state, supporting farmers and ranchers who need access to smaller slaughter and processing resources for marketing value-added meat products.
AURI, MFU and the colleges expect the end result of this grant will have a positive impact on Minnesota’s economy and benefit rural communities throughout the state. In addition to providing farmers a new option to bring their processed meat to market, the college programs will support the industry’s labor needs and reinvigorate the work force with new meat processing graduates to fill open positions.
To learn more about this grant and AURI’s efforts to support the livestock industry, be sure to read future editions of Ag Innovation News or visit auri.org.