MOSCOW – As the longtime manager of Vandal Brand Meats, the late Ron Richard fed Vandals for more than three decades and helped build a stellar reputation for the University of Idaho’s meat science program.
Friends of Richard spoke of his many lasting contributions to both meat science and the university as they addressed a large crowd at the October 14 groundbreaking ceremony for a meat science laboratory in Moscow that will bear his name worth about $14.1 million.
The 12,750-square-foot slaughterhouse will be called the Meat Science and Innovation Center, in honor of Ron Richard, and is scheduled to be completed by the fall of 2025. It will replace a facility built in the 1960s century, providing dedicated spaces for holding multiple functions at the same time, cutting-edge equipment and much greater operational efficiency.
Some of Richard’s family members attended the ceremony, where hors d’oeuvres were served, including tri-tip beef prepared by Vandal Brand Meats.
“Ron passed away five years ago yesterday, but it’s clear today that his memory and his legacy will live on for generations,” said Matt Dumitt, meat scientist and senior associate dean in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS), who works in close collaboration with Richard. “His passions for serving students, the community and the meat industry were unparalleled. He left a legacy of hard work, professionalism, innovation, mentorship, service and deep, deep Vandal pride that will continue to be the hallmark of the Center for Meat Science and Innovation.”
Speaker Lori Lickley, past president of the Idaho Cattle Association and owner and operator of Winecup L. Cattle Co. in Jerome, recalled how Richard cooked the beef when she and husband Bill celebrated their engagement. Richard was Lickley’s favorite instructor when she attended the U of I, who also coached Bill’s livestock judging team.
“Today’s groundbreaking was just a vision when I was president of the Idaho Cattlemen’s Association in 2016 that today is becoming a reality — and in honor of our dear friend Ron Richard,” Lickley said.
Lickley believes the facility will fill an increasingly important economic niche as new meat processing plants requiring skilled workers have opened in recent years across Idaho, which is home to more than 8,100 cattle operations livestock supporting 2.5 million head of livestock valued at more than $2.6 billion.
CALS Dean Michael Parella credited the college’s current meat team — which includes Dumitt, meat scientists Phil Bass and Michael Cole, and meat lab manager James Nasados — for building on the solid foundation of both Richard and the late Carl Hunt. who was head of the former Department of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, helped build the program.
The new meat science lab will be built adjacent to the new U of I Potato Seed Germplasm Lab, which opened in March 2022. Recognizing both projects, Parrella referred to a street sign displayed behind the speakers’ podium , recognizing the area as Meat & Potatoes Avenue.
Fundraising for the project continues to gain momentum and the bid for site work is significantly under budget.
“More than four years ago, we began the campaign to build this project with an event in Boise and the lead gift from Agri Beef, who were so inspired by Ron’s passion for the industry and his dedication to students that they chose to name the facility in his honor.” Parella said. “It was a collective effort to get to this point. I cannot understate the value of partnerships as they have played an important role in many of the College’s key initiatives. Together with the college and university, support from industry and investment from the state, we have been able to achieve great things.”
The future center will enable CALS to expand training programs, research, community outreach and workforce development opportunities.
“The plan is to do more workshops and educational programming because right now we’re not doing as much of that as we’d like because every time we do a program like this, we get shut down for two days and then I have to catch up,” Nasados said.
The center will also continue to fill a niche as one of the few plants inspected by the USDA where small-scale cattlemen in North Idaho can process their beef.
U of I meat science graduates enjoy a 100% job placement rate.
“The new Meat Science and Innovation Center will provide a valuable hands-on learning space that is the hallmark of what we do here at the University of Idaho,” said U of I President Scott Green. “This project offers another great example of what the U of I can achieve when private partners, the State of Idaho and our own investments are combined. We are capable of great things.”
AVAILABLE ASSETS: The attached photos of the first sod can be attributed to the University of Idaho. Caption for any photo: The University of Idaho’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences held a groundbreaking ceremony Oct. 14 for the Ron Richard Center for Meat Science and Innovation.