BLACKSBURG, Va., June 24, 2011 – Through an innovative partnership, Virginia Tech Dining Services has started to serve meat products that have been raised and processed on campus. The dining centers have been using meats purchased from the College of Agriculture and Life Science’s Meat Science Center for more than a year, serving customers quality products sourced within two miles of the central campus in Blacksburg.
The Meat Science Center is an on-campus processing facility where meat is harvested and inspected. Meats produced there are fully certified by state inspectors according to U.S. Department of Agriculture standards and are sold to public consumers by a division of the Meat Science Center called Plantation Road Meats. The animals are raised on Virginia Tech properties at Plantation Road and the university's neighboring Kentland Farm.
“The students here at the university have been requesting locally sourced food selections, and we have been able to provide that through this great relationship,” said Ted Faulkner, senior associate director of Dining Services. “It is truly amazing to know that some of these items we are able to offer in our dining centers are raised, processed, prepared, and consumed by our very own students.”
Meat Specialist Mark Stevenson describes the relationship with Virginia Tech Dining Services as a “win-win-win” because Dining Services is “able to buy quality local meats and serve them to its customers, students get experience in harvesting and production, and it provides a desirable outcome for researchers,” Stevenson said. “It’s a benefit to everyone.”
The partnership with the Meat Science Center has also been a positive shift for sustainability initiatives. “This is the first time that these venues have utilized closely-sourced meats with such frequency,” said Dining Services Sustainability Coordinator Elena Dulys-Nusbaum. “The Farms And Fields Project venue in Owens Food Court has historically been the only venue to do this consistently, but our growing relationship with the Meat Science Center has closed the gap on the distance factor of some of the meat products we are serving.” Dulys-Nusbaum said this is an exciting transition, “utilizing some of the work happening at our very own university.”
Many different products from the Meat Science Center have been used in the dining centers, including fresh hams, pork loin roasts, steamship rounds of beef, sirloin roasts, and ground beef have all been served in the dining centers. Initially they were used only for special events, but have now progressed to become regularly featured menu items.
The Virginia Tech Dining Services chefs made a trip to observe the products and procedures at the Meat Science Center. “We were thrilled with the quality of meat they were cutting and the care with which they were processing the products,” said Carolyn Bess, assistant director of Dining Services. The chefs were able to sample different types of meats that will be seen in dining halls in the future. “We look forward to developing utilization for specialty sausages and smoked bacon,” Bess said.
The Division of Student Affairs at Virginia Tech encompasses departments dedicated to providing a rich co-curricular experience and essential student services. Virtually every aspect of a student's life outside the classroom is represented through the division's departments.
Written by Stephanie Paradiso of Rockville, Md., a senior majoring in communication in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.