$2.2 Million Meat Lab Opens at East Texas High School
Longview High School, home of the Lobos, recently opened a $2.2 million “Meat Lab” to educate students on the “farm to table” process. The state of the art lab rivals many higher education institutions and includes a harvest floor, a chilled room, an aging room, a processing room, and a smoker. The Meat Lab is modeled after a similar one located at Tarleton State University. With access to this new facility, students will be able to leave high school ready to work in the field or pursue a college degree with more hands on experience than most high school students.
Within the Meat Lab facility there are several rooms that all serve specific purposes, each with its own strict cleaning process. The classroom isn’t a chalkboard laden, textbook driven, or lecture based learning environment. The room is large and equipped with technology including a conveyor that allows the instructor to bring a carcass into the classroom for experience based learning.
The Meat Lab facility also includes several refrigerated rooms for quarantine, processing, aging, and packaging. In another room you’ll find an Ultra Source smoker that was installed by the Kansas City based Ultra Source Smokehouses that can be used to cook up to an entire hog. Which of course, is on the menu for the next FFA banquet. There are also holding pens on the exterior of the building, locker rooms for students, and a service area for future sales.
If you ask a teacher what their biggest challenge is as an educator, many would mention student engagement. For Denson, that may not be the case. The Meat Lab provides a real world environment that is naturally engaging. His biggest hurdle will germs. In order to run this facility and sell to the public, Denson and his students have to meet the expectations of inspectors.
The Meat Lab is in the early stages and not fully operational at this time. However,Denson is diligently working to get the lab running and ready for inspections. Once finished, the school will be able sell its products to the public, which will also help teach students the economic side of the industry and business practices. Even though the lab isn’t yet in full swing, enrollment numbers are up for the agriculture program as a whole. FFA membership numbers are also climbing and becoming more diverse.
Denson points out that the demand in this field, from both business and higher education programs, is up. He also adds that following their last student trip each one of his students received letters of interest from Texas Tech University.
Tell us what you think about this type of course offering in the comments section below. Would you have taken the course if it was offered at your high school?