Since 1960, meats teaching, research, and extension activities that have been carried out in the new laboratory with modern and sophisticated facilities have covered a wide range of activities.
The Penn State faculty and staff members closely associated with the laboratory
provide essential animal carcass and cut information, resulting from breeding, feeding, and
management variations imposed by the live animal researchers of the College. Another major
activity of the laboratory personnel involves the further processing of meat and meat products.
In 1960, James L. Watkins became the plant manager, and John H. Ziegler was appointed as
coordinator of Meats Laboratory activities. Glenn R. Kean was appointed to the faculty of
the Department of Animal Husbandry in 1949, and, although he taught other livestock courses,
he continued to be involved with livestock slaughtering and the coaching of the meats judging
team. In 1962, John D. Sink was appointed to the faculty and initiated much of the basic
analytical work associated with carcass fat deposition, fat composition, and residues. This
work was taken over in 1981 by J. Scott Smith. In 1989, Edward W. Mills joined the Department
of Dairy and Animal Science as the faculty member in charge of the meats program.
The most continuous and extensive project involving the meats laboratory has been in cooperation with the Department of Agronomy (now Department of Crop and Soil Sciences) and the State Correctional Institution at Rockview. This study, initiated in 1957, was primarily concerned with the production of block beef from an Angus-Holstein crossbred herd. Penn State personnel processed all cattle produced from that project.
As an outgrowth of the Rockview work, and also as part of another project, in 1967 a trained panel was assembled and facilities established for the sensory evaluation of meat and meat products. Information collected on steer and heifer carcasses from the Rockview project shed important light on the application of USDA beef grading standards. In 1964, as part of the Rockview project, Penn State pioneered the successful application of ultrasound as a method of evaluating live cattle for subcutaneous fat thickness and later for determining muscularity. The meats group embarked on an extensive program related to adipose tissue of meat animals in 1959. Initially the work dealt with the deposition and composition of depot fats employing radioactive materials. Additional work confirmed the increased unsaturation of depot fats in ruminants fed low-fiber rations.
Beginning in 1962, the Meats Laboratory staff cooperated with the Department of Dairy Science to carry out work relative to the production and economics of acceptable block beef from Holstein bulls and steers. Also in that year, in answer to numerous requests, recommended plans for a small packing and processing facility were designed to meet federal inspection regulations. Using these plans, several successful plants were built within the Commonwealth. In addition, that project developed humane slaughter methods for small meat packers and pioneered work on the use of electrical stunning for hogs.
Work on residues of chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides was initiated in 1966 and resulted in information relative to the difficult depletion of pesticide residues in live cattle and the uniform distribution of residues throughout the whole of the meat animal carcass. This research culminated in the survey and the availability and practicality of feeding horticultural wastes to cattle. The sophisticated analytical techniques required for pesticide residue research permitted the meats staff to pursue other areas in which extremely small amounts of compounds are of major significance in meat and meat products, such as the hormone and hormone-like substances responsible for pork and mutton odors.
Between 1967 and 1970, the meats staff conducted extensive research on new fabricated products for increased utilization of lamb and mutton in cooperation with the ASRS of the USDA. In cooperation with the Penn State swine specialists, and from data collected in packing houses, a system for grading swine carcasses based on minimum meat-type certification, minimum acceptable quality, and yield of trimmed lean cuts was formulated and put into use. In addition to a carcass placing system, routine records collected at the meats laboratory have provided the basis for documenting the significant reductions in fat content that have occurred relative to market hog carcasses and cuts.
In 1967 the Meat Animal Evaluation Center was built and began operating on the Penn State campus. This center provided progeny testing, carcass evaluation, and sire certification to livestock breeders, and the meats laboratory covered the expense of slaughtering, carcass evaluation, and disposal by selling the resulting meat products.
Meats instruction at Penn State kept pace with research with the inclusion of two science-oriented courses: the senior undergraduate "Animal Industry 421," The Science of Meat (first taught in 1968) and the graduate level "Animal Industry 514," Meat Animal Growth and Development (first taught in 1974).
Prior to 1972, resident faculty members in Animal Science traveled throughout the state to judge carcass contests, present meat cutting demonstrations, prepare and serve meats at field days, and to solve the packing and processing problems of the industry. In 1972, the administration of the College of Agricultural Sciences recognized the need for a full-time, red meats extension specialist for the Commonwealth and hired W. R. Jones to initiate the program. In 1983, William R. Henning became the faculty member for that extension activity.
Author: John H. Ziegler, Professor of Meat Science