University of Ga Meat and Science
By John L. Byrwa
The next time you visit your local grocery store and purchase meat, be it beef, pork or lamb, know that past and present students at the University of Georgia played a significant role in ensuring the quality, safety and packaging of that product. Thanks to the staff and students at the UGA’s Meat Science and Technology Center in Athens, the meat production industry gains invaluable educational and production practice knowledge that result in the highest-quality and safest products available.
“Through coursework, students take hands-on, science-based courses,” said Dr. Alex Stelzleni, an associate professor of meat science at the department.
“They get out to farms, work with animals and get used to the handling and health aspects of raising animals, especially meat-production animals. Our industry places an extremely high emphasis on the safety of its products. We’re always looking for people to maintain the safety of the product.” Dr. Stelzleni, who has been at UGA for seven years, helps oversee approximately 300 undergraduate and 35 graduate students who are working toward degrees that could lead to careers in any number of fields related to the meat industry, including veterinarian, food processing plant management positions, quality control, food safety and even medical school. “If you go to grocery store, look around and see all the different types of meats products,” he said.
“There are a tremendous amount of products, and the industry places a large emphasis on the background of meat production and ingredient properties to develop new products to meet consumer demand. “Our students participate in and learn about virtually all aspects of that process: The raising and caring of the animals, anatomy, biochemical processes of animal muscles, the harvesting and handling of the meat and carcasses, quality, safety. They learn about how muscle location in carcass affects tenderness, flavor and juiciness. Every aspect of how to get the meat from the farm to the store and then to your plate.”
Speaking of plates, yours can be filled with some of the freshest meat products available anywhere in Georgia. That’s because UGA’s Meat Science and Technology Center also serves as a retail sales outlet that offers meat from its grown and harvested livestock. Every Friday from 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m., folks can go to the facility, which is located at 425 River Road in Athens, and purchase fresh meat products that were recently slaughtered, prepared and packaged.
“We are a USDA-inspected processing facility and we’re under inspection during all hours,” Dr. Stelzleni said. “Most of what we have are animals that have been raised on UGA farms, and are used in class or research projects. They’re harvested at the facility under USDA inspection. “We don’t always have everything but try to keep as much as we can in stock. We have a lot of pork, beef and ground hamburger, chops, sausage and smoked sausage. The sale of all meat goes back to the department and college. It’s one of the things that keeps our hands-on laboratory going.” For more information on the UGA Meat Science and Technology Center, call 706-542-4347 or visit its Facebook page.
UGA Meat Science Technology Center Store