Posted by Michele Frank on 09/28 at 08:11 AM
While riding the bus to Innovation Park one morning, I saw a huge line of people standing outside a non-descript building. In my four years at Penn State, I never once paid any attention to this building, despite the fact that every football season I have walked past it on my way into Beaver Stadium. Outside there was a sign advertising a meat sale. Curious, I went online once I reached my destination and found what might be considered Penn State’s best kept secret. Almost every Friday during the Fall and Spring semesters, the Meat Laboratory holds a retail sale full of fresh cut, locally raised meat that is open to the public.
After making the decision to attend the next sale, I saw why so many people were willing to stand in line. Stocked in a large retail case was a wide variety of fresh choices. Peering into the case, I saw any beef, pork, or lamb product that you could possibly want. Some of those waiting in line carried their own coolers and others left with multiple bags, ready to grill everything up for Saturday’s tailgate. The excitement in the room was palpable and the butchers behind the counter were extremely helpful. I was able to speak with Jason Monn, the assistant manager of the Penn State Meat Laboratory, and have him explain what the sale is all about.
Are all the animals that are processed raised in State College?
Yes, they are all raised on the farms here at Penn State.
Who is in charge of taking care of the animals?
The Department of Dairy and Animal Science is in charge of the animals. Each unit has a manager and student employees, just like we do. There are separate facilities for every type of animal including swine, cows, and sheep.
How are the animals raised?
The cows and sheep have access to pasture and, to some extent, the pigs do too. Market hogs are raised inside and grain fed. The lambs and steers that are for market are fed grain and hay.
Are there any factors that affect what you sell on Fridays?
We generally sell the same thing every week and that includes mostly fresh cuts of beef, pork, and lamb. A changing factor is what animals we use in class and that affects the volume that we sell. We try to have more to sell for football Fridays in the fall.
Do students process a lot of what you sell?
They have a good hand in it. They work here in-between classes, when they have a chance, and they do a lot of the sanitation clean up at the end of the day. There are six students in total that work here.
Where do the proceeds of the sale go?
Whatever we make from the meat sale all goes back into our department.
Do you sell the products to any local restaurants or businesses?
We do not sell to any local businesses but we do make a beef summer sausage, a wholesale product, which goes to the Creamery. Everything else that we sell goes into our retail cases here for sale on Fridays.
Would you say the sale is well known by the public?
Yes and no. We have a really good customer base and they seem to always return. Once someone comes for the sale, they typically come back. A lot of them call it the best kept secret in State College. Plus since we don’t advertise at all it is spread by word of mouth through our customers.
What products are the most popular?
The things that we sell out of first are the beef steaks. The filets and New York strip steaks are in high demand. We also make two types of bacon that go quickly. They include cottage bacon, which is similar to Canadian bacon, and regular bacon. The beef snack sticks are also really popular with our customer base.
Does the lab hold any events other than the meat sale?
We hold classes in here, two in the fall and one in the spring. Those classes use the building on a regular basis. Some other classes will come in here once or twice during the semester for various lessons. We also hold a PAMP, Pennsylvania Association of Meat Processors, show. The association consists of small meat processors throughout Pennsylvania and neighboring states. For the show, they bring their products for us to judge and award based on multiple categories.
What products would you recommend the most for tailgating?
The steaks, pork chops, hamburger, basically anything you can grill. We don’t make any hot dogs but we make kielbasa, which is great for grilling. Of course, the snack sticks are good for the tailgates too.
The PSU Meat Market Sale
The Meats Lab on Porter Rd
University Park, PA 16802
Friday: 9:30 am – 3 pm
All sales are first come, first served and they close when they run out. See link below for a complete listing of the products that are sold.
Author: Michele Frank
Bio: Michele is a senior at Penn State majoring in print journalism. She loves to cook for her friends and family, and wishes to make a career out of her hobby. She spent last summer working for Gulfshore Life Magazine in Naples, Fla.
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