Partnering to provide real food
They say it takes a village, and that is certainly the case in 1907 Meat Co.'s mission to bring quality meat to Oklahomans.
1907 Meat Co. works with the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University to reach as many consumers as possible, from students in Norman to grandmothers in Stillwater, and everyone in between.
1907 Meat Co. works with the Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center on the OSU campus to slaughter cattle and hogs, and provides a facility to age the beef before the carcasses go to 1907 Meat Co. to be processed.
In turn, 1907 Meat Co. provides quality beef and pork products to OU as part of their commitment to purchase food from local producers.
University of Oklahoma Real Food Challenge
Consumers have become increasingly concerned about the sources of their food and what is — and isn't — in it, and that concern didn't escape college students at the University of Oklahoma.
OU accepted the Real Food Challenge, committing to purchase 20 percent of campus food from local producers, in 2015, and contracted 1907 Meat Co. to provide locally sourced meat for campus dining. 1907 Meat Co. began supplying meat to OU in January 2016.
The Real Food Challenge requires producers to adhere to certain animal welfare standards to ensure a healthy and sustainable food system. Independent agencies such as the Animal Welfare Approved or the Global Animal Partnership audit and award certifications to individual farms or ranches that meet these standards.
AWA Certification highlights a farm or ranch as having the highest standards of animal welfare, from birth to slaughter, including a low-stress method of moving animals, continuous access to pasture to allow the animals to exhibit their natural behaviors and graze, and no added hormones or antibiotics used for weight gain.
GAP Certification comes on a variety of levels, and the Real Food Challenge requires that GAP Certified farmers adhere to level 3 certification or higher, which requires that animals be raised with access to pasture or range, not live in crowded or confined quarters, and live in an enriched environment with access to shelter.
Although not all producers who supply 1907 Meat Co. have been certified in either standard yet, we are working with all our producers to begin the certification process. In most cases, the farms or ranches already operate within the guidelines, and just need to be officially certified.
Oklahoma State University Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center
A sophomore from Indiana has found her place in the campus abattoir.
Jennifer Apple is working toward a meat sciences degree at Oklahoma State University and gets hands-on experience in the meat labs in the Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center.
Apple said her favorite job is working in the abattoir — slaughter facility — in FAPC.
“We kill, we clean, we fabricate, we package,” she said. “Whatever they tell us that needs to be done. It’s a really friendly environment. I love everyone who works here.”
Apple was familiar with agriculture and meat sciences from a young age.
“I grew up on a grain and sheep farm,” she said. “We raised Dorset breeding ewes and we still grow corn and soybeans. I was in FFA in high school and I started judging meats in seventh grade.”
Working in meat judging sparked something in her, she said.
“Meat judging was just kind of a passion for me,” she said. “I liked being in the coolers. I just knew I wanted to go into the meat science industry.”
That passion brought her to Stillwater after high school.
“I fell in love with the meat lab and the meat judging program (at OSU),” she said.
Apple said eventually she would like to carry on the family tradition of farming, but she is also toying with the idea of opening her own processing facility.
Apple works with several other students in the abattoir learning lab, where they harvest and process livestock, including animals that end up in the meat case at 1907 Meat Co.
Cattle or hogs are first harvested humanely and quickly before the students begin draining blood, skinning hides or scalding off hair, and removing organs and fat. Carcasses are attached to a rail line and move from station to station around the slaughter floor before they come to Apple.
She handles a band saw that’s almost as big as she is. Utilizing a counterweight and rising platform, Apple carefully splits the carcass down the middle.
“My favorite job is being on the kill floor,” she said. “I’ve done everything, but it’s neat (to split) because everyone else is over on that side and I’m over here doing the splitting.”
After splitting the carcass, Apple runs it through a sanitizing station, logs it into the system and pushes it down the rail into the cooler.
Kyle Flynn, the meat pilot plant manager at FAPC, said Apple is one of their best splitters.
Splitting is a job that requires a lot of finesse, Flynn said.
“We knew she could do it once we showed her how,” he said. “She has great attention to detail and understands the importance of a quality job. She is quality-minded.”
Apple has an internship with a large animal processor this summer, and she said slaughter facilities aren’t new to her.
“I remember my first day working at FAPC and they sent me out on the kill floor,” she said. “I came back the next week and they were all surprised.
“Sometimes, you get doubted because you’re a woman, but I know what I know and I’m in all the same classes with everybody else, and I know my stuff and I’m confident in my ability to succeed in the meat sciences industry. If you’re confident, other people will perceive you as confident.”