GRAND ISLAND, NEB. – The University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) recently shared its plans to develop what it is calling the Small Meat Processing Plant of the Future.

 The university unveiled the proposed project at the annual convention of the Nebraska Association of Meat Processors.

“The Small Plant of the Future will be a multi-disciplinary center to strengthen the meat industry in the region,” said Clint Krehbiel, head of UNL’s Animal Science department during a roundtable at the event.

The small plant would be located alongside existing Animal Science facilities at the university and serve as a regional processing hub for local cattle producers, as well as a prototype for other small and very small facilities.  

With this new initiative, UNL expects to also make equipment upgrades at the Loeffel harvest and processing facility already on campus. The department also wants to hire and train staff to maintain regular slaughter operations and provide resources for people looking to set up or expand small meat operations.

Krehbiel said that the COVID-19 pandemic illuminated issues that small meat processors had faced for years, including the insufficient capacity of small processors to keep up with rising demand, barriers to implementing new technologies, and widespread workforce shortages.

UNL explained that the Small Plant of the Future aims to address those issues and set up workforce development programs, including internship programs that will pair meat science students with small meat processing businesses across the state.

The university hopes to use the recently announced USDA grant program to fund part of the initiative.