The University of Arizona Food Product and Safety Lab (FPSL), formally known as the University of Arizona Meat Lab, has a long and important history at the UA farm in Tucson, Arizona. It is now heading towards a bright future, helping the surrounding community and the state of Arizona with food safety and creating a more delicious food product. Arizona Beef Council staff visited with the folks at the FPSL to learn about the updates and how they will help you, the consumer.
Dr. Sam Garcia, Associate Professor of Practice and UA alumnus, manages the lab’s day-to-day operations while also teaching and conducting research. Dr. Garcia grew up in Douglas, Arizona, and Sonora, Mexico, bringing a unique perspective to the lab with experience raising cattle in Mexico and the United States. He is an integral part of the lab. He keeps things running daily, schedules and processes the harvesting of 20 animals per week, ensures research projects are up and running smoothly, and teaches UA students about animal science and husbandry. Having worked for the university since 2013, Dr. Garcia has built connections within the community and is a friendly face most everyone remembers. He also staffs and runs the Wildcat Country Market, which sells USDA inspected beef, lamb, goat, pork, and other products sourced locally from livestock raised, processed, and packaged by University of Arizona students.
The FPSL has recently seen numerous updates and an addition of a professor to help research efforts and community impact. Dr. Duane Wulf, Associate Professor, was hired by the UA in 2020 to perform research, teach, and provide community support. Dr. Wulf is an excellent addition to the FPSL with his commitment to producing high-quality meat products and his proven track record in teaching. Dr. Wulf was honored several times for his teaching excellence, highlighted by the Distinguished Teaching Award from the American Meat Science Association. Dr. Wulf has served as a missionary businessman in Sonora, Mexico for the past ten years. He started a meat processing plant, a cattle ranch, and a restaurant to provide training and career opportunities to the fatherless and underprivileged. In addition to these positions, Dr. Wulf has worked across all production and processing phases of the meat industry and has been hired as a consultant both domestically and internationally by both small and large companies.
Equipment investments have been made, too, including a brand-new smoker for products like bacon, sausage, jerky, and other value-added products new pork scalder used to dehair hogs after harvesting, and the cooler where meat carcasses are stored and aged is being redone. All these updates will allow for a more effortless flow of animals, a better teaching environment, and provide an excellent service to the community that the land grant university serves. The animal handling facilities are also being updated and will provide low-stress handling for the animals who enter the facility. The consumer testing kitchen has received a much-needed upgrade with stainless steel restaurant-quality appliances, making it easier to keep clean and professional.
The University of Arizona is a land grant university tasked with disseminating research to the community to help grow better animals to produce a better meat product, amongst other projects. Extension agents such as Dr. Joslyn Beard, UA’s Livestock Extension Specialist, disperse the research for Arizona farmers and ranchers to apply. She says it’s like being the liaison or translator between what research the UA is doing and how producers can use it on their farms and ranches. With updates in personnel and equipment, the FPSL is equipped to provide the community and Arizona with a higher-quality meat product and hands-on learning experience through research, in the lab, and out on ranches across the state with learnings on continuously improving how animals are raised, transported, handled, and harvested.
Many people and lots of work go into the UA Food Product and Safety Lab operations. The benefit of this lab to both the agriculture community and consumers (by selling fresh meat) is apparent. Still, wider positive ramifications are felt throughout the state by Arizona beef farmers and ranchers with continuing education and extension specialist help. To learn more about the FPSL, check out the website here: https://acbs.arizona.edu/food-products-safety-laboratory