Olds College reopens meat processing centre

Renovated laboratory Students learn how to make sausage and how to cut, cure and smoke meat

OLDS, Alta. — Brad McLeod wants to bring back the art of meat cutting and processing.

McLeod manages a 15 week course that teaches the latest concepts in processing lamb, pork and beef. A $300,000 investment into the National Meat Training Centre at Olds College has made it the only school of its kind in North America.

“I work for the meat industry,” he said at the reopening of the centre March 14.

About 500 students have graduated from the program since it started in 1969 and all learned the latest concepts used in modern processing.

The students are a diverse group.

Danny Lamb was a chef from Niagara Falls, Ont., who wanted a career change. He started to think about butchery, and discovered there was a school that might offer the kind of training he sought.

“It was in a small town I had never heard of Olds, Alta.,” he said.

“It’s probably one of the better decisions I ever made. I am a chef. I have been at it for 12 years so I must know how to break down a piece of meat. I was wrong.”

Jackson Pahl followed in the footsteps of his father, Greg Pahl, who graduated from the program 10 years ago. He now owns Medicine Hat Meat Traders, which makes nine flavours and three styles of beef jerky derived from local cattle.

Jackson took advantage of the high school connection, which offers full credits to Grade 11 and 12 students who take the program for a semester.

He considered engineering after finishing high school, but made the switch to the meat business.

“Everything I learned here really helped,” he said.

The meat facility first opened in 1969 with 15 students from the Bowden penitentiary. It evolved into an accredited training centre and introduced a slaughter component in 1979 and a smokehouse 10 years later.

The government was upgrading food safety requirements at the time, and these were taught as well.

The next step will be to ask the industry for input into further curriculum development so that graduates learn what is required when they enter the meat business.

The course can accept 18 people but only seven are enrolled at the moment.

Students learn meat cutting, trimming, boning, breaking, wrapping, sausage making and curing under government certified food safety requirements.

The program is also Alberta’s training site for humane handling and stunning.

In addition, the renovated training centre will include a new meat laboratory for researchers and introduce students to the newest processing equipment used in modern processing plants.

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