by Bonnie A. Coblentz, MSU Extension Center
Mississippi State University officials hosted a group of influential lawmakers who want to increase meat processing capacity in the state. Front row, from left, are Bill Pigott, Andy Gipson and Chuck Younger. Back row, from left, are Keith Coble, Dr. Kent Hoblet, Fred Stokes and Reuben Moore. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Kevin Hudson)
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Mississippi State University’s state-of-the-art meat processing facilities drew Mississippi Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Andy Gipson and a small group of influential lawmakers to campus for a personal tour September 16, 2020.
The visit was organized to address a desire to increase meat processing capacity in the state. MSU’s modern meat processing facility and storefront operation on campus became the centerpiece of the daylong tour.
In addition to Gipson, the tour included Mississippi Sen. Chuck Younger, Mississippi Rep. Bill Pigott and Kemper County beef producer Fred Stokes. The tour was hosted in part by MSU President Mark Keenum.
Reuben Moore, interim vice president of the MSU Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine, said MSU met the legislators’ need for information and can meet producers’ need for education in the industry’s latest techniques, as well.
“A lot of people want to shop local and know the source of the food they eat,” Moore said. “Our small cattle operations are uniquely positioned to do this, but they sometimes do not have the facilities or capacity to process the meat they raise.”
Keith Coble, head of the MSU Department of Agricultural Economics, let legislators know they did not have to travel out of state to see small-scale, modern meat processing facilities. MSU’s facility, which opened in 2018, is part of an animal, dairy and poultry science complex that is nearing completion.
“There are a lot of people, not just in Mississippi but all over the country, who are trying to find a way to produce local or branded food products -- in this case meat,” Coble said. “It is a challenge to build a facility that is viable economically.
“The fact that Mississippi State has a state-of-the-art meat science lab funded by the Legislature to teach students -- potential meet processors -- about management and economics of a plant is a significant asset in helping Mississippians do this successfully,” he said.
Stops on the tour included the R.R. Foil Plant Science Research Center, H.H. Leveck Animal Research Center, the MAFES Sales Store, Meat Science and Muscle Biology Lab and MSU College of Veterinary Medicine.
“We were able to introduce our guests to a combination of researchers and Extension personnel all working together to help the meat industry of this state,” Coble said.