University of Kentucky College of Agriculture

Food Science Extension

University of Kentucky Meat Cutting School
Gregg Rentfrow

In the past, meat cutting schools dotted the landscape with the most famous school located in Toledo, OH. Students at these schools would spend several weeks gaining hands-on experience harvesting animals and fabricating carcasses, along with learning about the meats and livestock industries. The introduction of boxed meats in the 1970’s ushered the meats industry into a new era. Boxed meats are easier to cut and do not require a prior knowledge of carcass anatomy. Meat cutting schools closed as skilled cutters were no longer needed. The responsibility of training and teaching new meat cutters fell upon the senior meat cutters. However, over the years knowledgeable, properly trained meat cutters became fewer and fewer in numbers.

The UK Meat Cutting School offered a two or three day workshop designed for retail meat cutters. The participants learned about the meats and livestock industries in the morning classes and participated in cutting demonstrations in the afternoon. Furthermore, the retail
cutters observed an animal (beef or pork) being harvested, which was a first for the majority of the students. Over 500 retail meat cutters from five states participated in the class and the grocery stores indicated a reduced turnover of meat cutters along with improved customer service.

The UK Meat Cutting School works one-on-one with Kentucky’s meat processors.  There are very few skilled meat cutters; therefore meat processors are hiring unskilled employees. In addition, meat processors want to add-value to their operations by offering the new beef cuts like the Flat Iron Steak, the Shoulder Tender Medallion, the Denver Cut, and the Ranch Cut. The UK Meat Cutting School works with meat processors to train new meat cutters and demonstrate how to fabricate the new beef cuts.

Consumers and farmers are becoming more interested in how meat is fabricated as well as learning more about the new beef cuts. The UK Meat Cutting School has performed meat cutting demonstrations in several Kentucky counties (22 counties) as well as
demonstrations and trainings in other states (North Carolina 2, Tennessee 2, New York 1; California 1). The cutting demonstrations have become very popular and have raised awareness of the new beef cuts and provided audience a chance to ask questions about the
meats and livestock industries.

The UK Meat Cutting School is poised to expand services in the future. Restaurant chefs are becoming more interested in processing their own carcasses and turning the trimmings into dry-cured sausages (charcuterie) or dry-cured, prosciutto-style hams. Future
workshops are planned to train chefs on proper charcuterie techniques to produce wholesome, safe, high-quality dry-cured meat products. Furthermore, the majority of the Commonwealth’s meat processors offer very little or no further processed meats such as Summer Sausage, flavored bacons, or boneless hams. The UK Meat Cutting School will be offering more processed meats workshops which will allow processors to expand services to survive through a struggling economy.

Food Systems Innovation Center
Gregg Rentfrow, Joe O’Leary, Melissa Newman, Tim Woods, Wuyang Hu, and Leeann Slaughter.  Locally produced foods are increasing in popularity. The Kentucky Proud program promotes foods raised, grown, and/or produced within the Commonwealth. The majority of these foods are marketed at local farmer’s markets and some have become popular and/or
have gained the attention of larger markets. When this happens, these entrepreneurs have question about increasing/up-scaling production, nutrition labels and analysis, determining a shelf-life, and/or marketing. The Food Systems Innovation Center (FSIC) is a multi-discipline program designed to aid Kentucky’s food entrepreneur’s answer these questions.

The FSIC is a collaborative effort between the Department of Animal and Food Science and Agricultural Economics, with associate members in the Department of Dietetics and Human Nutrition and the Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering. The FSIC offers a variety of services such as shelf-life determination, microbial analysis and challenge studies, nutritional label analysis, sensory evaluation, and help with marking. All with the goal of aiding Kentucky’s food entrepreneurs produce safe, wholesome, legal food products. Clients are vetted through Ms. Leeann Slaughter, FSIC Coordinator, to determine their needs and then
are directed to the appropriate faculty members with in the FSIC. Currently, the FSIC has helped over 200 clients and over 100 products reach the marketplace. Although the FSIC is designed to aid Kentuckians, it has helped food marketers in Ohio, Tennessee, Indiana,
California, and Nevada.

Education is an important part of the Food Systems Innovation Center. Agricultural Economics offers the Market Ready workshop, which outlines the steps needed to introduce a product into the marketplace. In addition, the FSIS regularly offers Hazard Analysis and Critical
Control Points (HACCP) classes, along with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Better Process Control Schools. These food safety workshops/trainings are mandatory for the production of FDA and USDA foods. The educational programs offered by the FSIC have
reached over 700 people from four different states.

Farm to Campus
Gregg Rentfrow, Ryan Chaplin, Zlatan Prosovic, and Scott Kohn

The University of Kentucky Executive Chef Scott Kohn strives to source as much local foods to feed the over 28,000 students on campus, as possible. In 2006, Chef Kohn purchased approximately $20,000 of locally grown/produced foods; during the 2011-12 academic years UK purchased over $750,000 of locally grown/produced foods. Some foods such as fruits and vegetables are easy to purchase; however, due to USDA inspection, local meats involves unique challenges. To overcome these challenges the UK Dining Services and the UK Meats Laboratory have team-up to provide local meats to the UK community.

Recently, the UK dining services began to purchase locally raised beef and pork. The live animals are harvested by a local meat processor and then vacuum packaged wholesale cuts are delivered to the dining service kitchens for fabrication into retail cuts. Chef Prosovic has been experimenting with making various charcuterie (dry-cured meat products) items from the trimmings generated from the retail cut fabrication. USDA inspection is required for the sale of these charcuterie items. Therefore, the charcuterie items, including the initial fabrication of the wholesale cuts will occur under USDA inspection at the UK Meat Science Laboratory.

The collaboration will give UK students an opportunity to gain valuable hands-on experience making dry-cured sausages that would normally only be discussed in theory or demonstrated in class. In addition, this program will help make UK more sustainable. This is the
only collaboration between a university meats laboratory and a dining service in the country.

4-H Country Ham Project
Gregg Rentfrow

Country hams are as much a part of Kentucky’s heritage as horses, Bluegrass, and bourbon. The 4-H Country Ham Project began in 1997 with 35 4-Hers and has grown to over 700 4-Hers in 2012 representing 58 counties in Kentucky. Students begin the project during the cold winter months with two fresh hams, and gain valuable hands-on experience curing, caring for, and preparing a country ham to show at the state fair. In addition, 4-Hers must give a three to five minute speech about the project at the state fair in August. The student will get to keep the two hams they cured at the completion of the project, which are valued at over $80 each. More importantly, the 4-Hers learn about their Kentucky heritage, where their food comes from, and how to foods were preserved before the invention and development of mechanical refrigeration.


2013 Extension Report and Directory