Partnership Gets UW Pork to Rural Food Banks


By Jeff Dahdah, Spectrum News 1 (WI)

Jul. 01, 2020


MADISON, Wis. (SPECTRUM NEWS) — As coronavirus forced meat packing plants to temporarily close or slow production, the University of Wisconsin meat sciences program was one of the pork producers left in the lurch.


The University's facility in Arlington, Wisconsin usually sends hogs to a Tyson plant in Iowa. In early spring the plant temporarily closed, when it reopened it was at a decreased capacity. It was the situation with a lot of meat processing plants, and a situation that put the University's hogs in danger of going to waste.


“That was the one extreme right? That was always there, that was the last case scenario we wanted to do everything we could to avoid that,” said Jamie Reichert, UW's Swine Research Center manager.


At the same time students were sent home from the University, taking away the extra hands the the department would normally have to process its own pork.


“A lot of our facilities throughout campus rely on student labor, that's just how they're designed with their business plan,” Reichert said.


A business called Vita Plus learned of the situation the meat science department was in after its vice president — Al Gunderson — was on a stakeholder call with the program. Vita Plus decided to help out.


“We had this program where we thought we could help our customers because they were having problems marketing their output and we could also help the food banks by connecting them up and it's been a very very successful program,” Gunderson said.


Vita Plus found a processor — company called Stoddards Meat Market in Cottage Grove. They facilitated the pigs getting from the University to Stoddards to be processed.