How Much Effect Does UNR's Wolf Pack Meats Have on its Community

Wolf Pack Meats

Wolf Pack Meats, a Nevada Agriculture Experiment Station, is part of urban Reno’s Main Station Field Lab and has been in operation for more than 50 years as a state-of-the-art research and education meat science facility.  While Wolf Pack Meats (WPM) has enjoyed a long history of serving an experiential learning function for students within the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources (CABNR) at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), in recent years WPM has undergone numerous changes affecting its operations and future sustainability. These changes include loss of educational programs held at WPM.

If courses at WPM are found feasible and are reintroduced, this will enhance the learning opportunities of students in the agricultural sciences, and will lead to better access to meat scientists for Nevada’s rural communities. Additionally, reintroducing course work at WPM may contribute to the facility’s sustainability, which would have positive impacts on the regional community’s food security.

The future sustainability of WPM has gained much local attention as it is currently the only USDA-inspected livestock slaughter and meat processing plant in Nevada.  Other regional facilities offer USDA-inspected slaughter, but only WPM can provide the services necessary to develop a carcass into salable packaged (high-value) retail meat products.

The loss of WPM and the region’s only USDA-inspected option for meat processing would have severe impacts to regional livestock producers and consumers, who are enjoying a mutually beneficial relationship during this current consumer trend toward locally-produced food products. Community supported agriculture (CSA) programs have become increasingly visible during this trend as a means of connecting producers directly to consumers, and meat CSAs and meat-buying clubs are appearing all over the country in various forms to meet growing consumer demand for retail cuts of locally-produced meats.

In northern Nevada, consumer demand for CSA programs is strong with five large and several small CSA programs currently in operation. Of these programs, only one offers meat products. While several livestock producers in northern Nevada have entered into direct market sales of large cuts of meat (i.e. quarters, halves and whole animals) and ground beef, at present there is no direct market outlet for consumers who wish to purchase smaller quantities or specific cuts of local meat products. This project will assess the potential for and begin operation of a meat CSA to provide regional producers with an additional direct market outlet, which will enhance the economic sustainability of Nevada’s rural communities.

This project will assess the feasibility of reintroducing course work at WPM to students at UNR, regional colleges, and chefs and restaurant professionals.  In addition to estimating the costs and logistics of using WPM as a teaching facility, we will estimate the value of such experiential learning and research opportunity to students in agriculture disciplines.