Students learn the process, public gets high quality products at UGA meat center
By Matt Chambers
From the posters of meat cuts and a cow femur pencil holder to the rows of butcher knives, Ryan Crowe’s office at the University of Georgia screams meat.
Crowe, the Meat Science Technology Center coordinator, readily admits meat is his passion. “Ever since I started cutting meat and then found out some jobs you could do with meats, I’ve been interested,” he said. “I knew that meat was where I wanted to go.”
The Florida native is responsible for managing the Meat Science Technology Center in the animal and dairy science department of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
A fully functional harvesting and processing facility, the center is used to facilitate teaching, research and outreach at the university while harvesting and processing 100-140 cattle, 240 hogs and 30 sheep annually.
To do that, Crowe plays many different roles from helping with course labs to providing informational clinics to chefs and local groups. He also coordinates a weekly meat sale that is open to the public and run by student workers every Friday. All proceeds go directly to the animal and dairy science department.
Crowe also trains and manages 10-12 UGA students on the harvesting, fabrication, processing and selling of meat.
“This gives them some info so they can figure out if they want to go into the meat industry,” he said. “I kind of take it upon myself to show them some cool stuff and hopefully trigger them to say, ‘I want to do meats.’ “
Crowe said teaching the students and seeing them finally understand a process or technique really drives him.
“Those a-ha moments a kid has are the best,” he said. “Sometimes they’re working here a whole semester, and then there’s that moment you’re with them and you say or show them something, and they just get it. That’s awesome to see.”
In between running the center and training students, Crowe works with local groups or UGA Extension agents to host clinics such as Beef 101 or Pork 101. He works with UGA researchers to determine what to do with animals and carcasses at certain stages of the work. And, he creates and updates food safety plans, deals with inspectors and keeps the center running.
Crowe came to UGA after years of working for Publix in its meat department. He started as a bag boy, but had his sights set on the meat department.
“I always said that when I turned 18, I wanted to go into the meat department, so a week after I turned 18, I was back in the meat department cleaning up,” he said. “I started from the bottom and learned everything I could on my way up.”
Along with the other aspects of running the center, the math and merchandising of meat really appeal to Crowe.
“I like saying this carcass is worth this amount of money, but if I cut it this way, I can make this much money,” he said. “Really, meat in itself intrigues me because you can take a cut of meat and cut it this way, and it’s one thing; then you turn it this way, and it’s a different item.”
For more on animal and dairy science programs at UGA, go to ads.uga.edu.