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Estes E. Firestone Meat Lab to Receive $200,000 Meat Processing Development and Expansion Grant

Panhandle State Communications on 08/28/2020 AJ Ingo - Firestone Meat Lab Director AJ Ingo - Firestone Meat Lab Director

The Estes E. Firestone Meat Lab at Oklahoma Panhandle State University will receive a $200,000 Grant from the Oklahoma Agriculture Enhancement and Diversification Program. As part of the CARES Act funding for the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, this grant is to be used for the growth of Oklahoma’s meat processing capacity through investment in new or expanding meat processing facilities in Oklahoma.

University President, Dr. Tim Faltyn commented, “This grant will allow OPSU to enhance what is already a center of excellence for us in a way that will better serve not only our students but our community as well.”

Meat Lab Director, AJ Ingo, Instructor of Animal Science, Daren Stephens, Director of Campus Communications, Natasha Eidson, and Vice President of Operations, Dr. Ryan Blanton, all worked on finding the best way to take advantage of this opportunity.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Estes E. Firestone Meat Lab has been able to help the community in many ways. While meat production in the area slowed down due to the pandemic, the Meat Lab was able to continue their harvesting and processing of meat animals for regional customers.

Blanton stated, “This funding provides us an opportunity to be a better economic partner in the regional agricultural community by strengthening our processing capacity.”

AJ Ingo stated, “I am extremely excited about the opportunity this grant is offering us. We have worked hard to provide quality products for many years with equipment that had fallen behind current industry standards.”

“This money,” Ingo added, “will allow us to replace some of our key pieces of equipment to provide an even more consistent product to our valued customers in less time. It also will provide a safer work environment for our student employees and students in meat science classes.”

The Estes E. Firestone Meat Lab, built in 1982, has had minimal upgrades to the facility and equipment. Oklahoma Panhandle State University will use these upgrades to enhance students’ learning experience, making them more marketable in the modern workforce.

Daren Stephens, Instructor of Animal Science, commented, “From an educational view, the Firestone Meat Lab provides a very Hands-On learning experience for students. These monies will allow students to use and experience more current and Advanced Machinery, processing technology, and techniques. The laboratory experiences for courses will be richer and more diverse.”