Kurt Vogel, director of the Humane Handling Institute at UW-River Falls, discusses a meat processing curriculum being used at high schools during a January 25 presentation
Kurt Vogel, director of the Humane Handling Institute at UW-River Falls, discusses a meat processing curriculum being used at high schools during a January 25 presentation to Wisconsin state officials when they visited UWRF. UW-River Falls recently received a $20,000 state grant to help address a meat processing shortage in Wisconsin. 

UW-River Falls one of eight recipients of state meat processing infrastructure grant

Money will improve facilities, provide students with training to address processor shortage

May 16, 2023 - The University of Wisconsin-River Falls has received a $20,000 meat processing infrastructure grant from the state to renovate its livestock holding pens and handling facilities, an effort that will increase student learning opportunities and help address a meat processing shortage in Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) has awarded UWRF those funds as part of a $200,000 grant given to eight applicants statewide through the 2023 Meat Processor Infrastructure Grant Program. The grants are intended to grow Wisconsin’s meat industry and boost the viability of livestock operations. 

The grant was awarded to Animal and Food Science Associate Professor Kurt Vogel and the Humane Handling Institute (HHI) at UWRF that he oversees. Specifically, the grant will be used to modernize current livestock handling and holding pens to improve worker safety and animal welfare. The HHI was created in fall 2022.

“We appreciate DATCP’s support for humane handling and meat processing education at UWRF,” Vogel said. “This grant will help provide safer conditions for the students, staff and animals that enter our facilities. Our team is very excited to continue to do our part in developing the next generation of training opportunities for the meat industry.”

The grant will allow UWRF to, through the HHI, educate and train meat processing employees to address a processor shortfall across the state and elsewhere in the U.S., said Dean Olson, interim dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences.

“This is important for UWRF in that this (HHI) is the first comprehensive training program in the nation and demonstrates UWRF is a leader in offering education and training for our students and agricultural industries in the state, region and nationally,” Olson said.

The grant process was competitive, with 70 applicants seeking more than $2.8 million in funding. A maximum of $50,000 was available to any one project. 

Grant recipients are required to match the full grant amount. The grants are available as part of the 2021-23 state budget which included $200,000 annually to increase meat processing output in the state.

In addition to UW-River Falls, other grant award winners include Salchert Meats in St. Cloud, JM Watkins Meats & Meat Processing in Plum City, Wisconsin River Meats in Mauston, NF Packing in Elkhorn, The Durand Smokehouse in Durand, Sailer’s Meat Market and Food Processing, Inc. in Elmwood, and D-D Meat Processing in Sheboygan Falls.  

Gov. Tony Evers said the grants will address an ongoing meat processing shortage across Wisconsin that was made evident during the coronavirus pandemic. His administration created the meat processing grant program in 2021 to boost processing capacity, but more work on that front is needed, Evers said. Many farmers report waits of a year or longer to have their animals slaughtered and processed. 

“Even still, need continues to outpace available funding, which is why investing in and supporting our local meat processors continues to be a top priority for me and our budget includes an additional $1.6 million to continue this successful program,” Evers said in a news release.  

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