The College of Agriculture at Arkansas State University has received a $500,000 grant to expand and improve the laboratory space devoted to livestock research. The project will improve the current facilities’ meat processing safety equipment.
“The Arkansas Department of Agriculture looks forward to working with A-State on this impactful project,” Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward said. “We know that A-State will help our producers meet consumer demand for locally grown meat products during COVID-19 related disruptions and assist with research to improve skills for our local small producers.”
The Arkansas Meat and Poultry Processing Grant Program is made possible through federal funding to the state as a part of the CARES Act, and sets Arkansas State University on a path to become a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspected facility.
“We are thrilled to partner with the Arkansas Department of Agriculture and other statewide organizations to create this new facility at our Agricultural Teaching and Research Center,” Chancellor Kelly Damphousse said. “Two of the pillars of our Discover 2025 strategic plan are to enhance our research and teaching capabilities and to increase our community-based projects. Thanks to the support of Secretary Ward and the confidence in our proposal by his industry-based review committee, Arkansas State can embark on new projects in our College of Agriculture.”
ASU and Williams Baptist University in Walnut Ridge were the only higher education partners selected to receive grants.
“Our goal is to work with our local and statewide producers to educate both our students and individuals in industry on best-practices related to meat processing,” Dean Mickey Latour said. “Arkansas has a vital role in our nation’s food production, and Northeast Arkansas in particular is seeing significant growth in the production of all types of protein for the plate.”
“We have outgrown the existing facilities that date back to the 1970s, and with changes to campus, those facilities cannot accommodate the variety of locally-grown meat products that we want to produce and sell to the public,” Associate Dean Donald “Bud” Kennedy said. “This grant allows us to renovate, and potentially shift to new facilities at our Agricultural Teaching and Research Center here in Jonesboro.”
Upon completion, ASU will pursue full USDA inspection approval for its processing area.
“Serving as a USDA-inspected facility is a game changer for our students, and will greatly enhance their educational experience,” Associate Professor of Animal Science and current president of the National Pork Board David Newman said. “That will elevate the profile of our program at Arkansas State.”
“An updated facility provides unique training opportunities for students that are translatable to industry,” Assistant Professor of Animal Science Jerica Rich added. “The grant will open the door to more opportunities for A-State, like the potential to become a USDA inspected meat lab. The updated lab space will promote renewed excitement and creativity, which will set our students apart as they go on to their careers in agriculture and work to improve the industry.”
The facility also presents additional opportunities for future coordination with a proposed College of Veterinary Medicine at A-State.
“Proposing this expanded and enhanced facility works hand-in-hand with our overall strategic goals in the College of Agriculture to assist our growing in-state industry related to animal products in the agribusiness economy,” Latour said.
According to the state Department of Agriculture, Arkansas ranks 10th in the nation in the value of animals and animal products, resulting in more than $5.6 billion in the state’s economy annually.