St. Paul offers tasty treats for meat lovers

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Even though July’s National Hot Dog Month came and went, there are still deals to be had on fresh, local meat on the St. Paul campus.

At the Andrew Boss Lab of Meat Science , students and staff sell lamb, beef, pork and turkey raised and produced by University students.

Mike Aggen and Pete Nelson head up the meat lab, which employs nine students, all of whom study meat production, animal science, agriculture or sales.

“About 90 percent of the products we sell come from within the University system,” Aggen, the senior lab technician, said. “Pork and poultry products are raised right here at the St. Paul campus, while the lamb is raised in Morris, Minn.”

Lucien McBeth , an animal science beef production major, works at the lab and said he likes working close to campus, and more importantly, “learning all about the production process.”
Butcher shop staples like beef steaks, Italian sausage, pork ribs and bacon are for sale, but they also create several Minnesota specialties. Wild rice burgers, “U of M brats,” and “Gopher Gold” smoked ham steaks are a few original offers.

While the lab is a meat-lover’s paradise, honey from the University’s Landscape Arboretum and local maple syrup from the entomology department are also for sale.

Sales are steady throughout the year, with brats and steaks being popular right now, Aggen said.

“We sell a lot of grilling food over the summer, and get really busy around holiday times, such as Christmas, Labor Day and the Fourth of July,” he said.

With rising costs of production and feed for animals, Aggen said they try to keep their prices low.

“We get a lot of our funding from taxpayers, through the University and the government,” he said. “We really aren’t trying to be very competitive.”

Nelson, the meat lab supervisor, said their meat is usually fresher than what you’d find in a chain grocery store. Most products are packaged within a week of butchering, while some grocery stores’ meats might not be ready for sale until 10 days to two weeks after.

The lab is also able to rely on returning customers like Mike McClellan who works on the St. Paul campus.

“I like coming here because I know where the meat comes from,” McClellan said. “I’ve been coming here since before the place got big,” McClellan said.

Operating for nearly six years, the meat lab, Aggen said, doesn’t advertise other than with information on its website, and gets most business from word of mouth.

“About 60 percent of our customers are staff from the ‘U,’ and the rest are students or people from outside the ‘U’ community,” Aggen said.

Products from the department of meat science can also be purchased around campus, as beef jerky and sausage are available at Gopher Spots on the St. Paul, West and East Bank campuses.

The meat lab sale runs every Wednesday from 2 to 5 p.m. in the basement of the Andrew Boss Laboratory of Meat Science.