A unique mobile lab puts meat education on the move in southeastern North Dakota.
A nearly 300-square-foot butcher shop on wheels travels among ten schools in the southeast region. When the mobile meat lab arrives for its six-week stint per high school, agriculture students receive an education in food sanitation, kitchen safety, meat quality, meat cuts and processing. The experience – rare to the rest of North Dakota and most parts of the country – provides lifetime skills, even for students who don’t pursue careers as meat processors.
“Anybody that grocery shops knows that meat purchases are an expensive part of your grocery bill,” says Dan Rood Jr., director of the Southeast Region Career and Technology Center, which owns the mobile meat lab. “If you can be a smarter consumer, that alone has lifetime value for these kids.”
Today’s mobile meat lab is the second 36-foot trailer in the 11-year tenure of the program. The ten agriculture teachers within the territory of the Southeast Region Career and Technology Center receive hands-on training from North Dakota State University to teach the meat courses. The Center provides the teachers with a curriculum and encourages tying meat lessons into their school’s animal science unit for students to understand the cycle from animal to plate.
In fact, students often cook and eat their work after processing in the mobile laboratory space, which is representative of the work area behind the meat counter at a grocery store or butcher shop.
“The mobile meat lab is a food- grade trailer,” Rood says. “We have North Dakota Ag Department inspections on it for food safety. We have standard meat-cutting and processing equipment – everything you need so you can roll into a school and they can do some meat processing.”
The mobile meat lab represents just one of several cost-effective, mobile educational services the Southeast Region Career and Technology Center provides to schools in its region.
“I’d like to see more places across the country doing this,” Rood says. “It’s a great opportunity for kids, and I see them excited and engaged.”