Iowa beef industry initiative supports the vulnerable during pandemic

The #BeefUpIowa initiative connects 4-H members with local food banks to help feed those in need.


By Michael Cox, BEEF Magazine

Jul 23, 2020


A new food bank program initiated in Iowa in early July is delivering ground beef processed at Iowa State University (ISU) to food banks across the state. Sponsored by the Governor’s office, the program aims to facilitate the link between 4-H steer owners, the ISU meat lab processing plant and those who are food insecure.


Under the program, steers are purchased from local 4-H members and the ground beef is donated to food banks in need. The Iowa Cattlemen’s Association plays a role in managing donations and the purchase and delivery of steers to the ISU packing plant at the Ames, Iowa campus.


Packing capacity


Terry Houser, ISU Extension meat specialist, says the lack of meat packing capacity in Iowa as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns has created a bottleneck in the supply chain. “We have lots of 4-H animals in the area that don’t have a processing facility available to go to, and meanwhile, the food bank needs are increasing as more locals become food-insecure,” Houser says.


The ISU campus is home to a USDA-approved meat lab and packing facility which is normally used for both student and industry training and up-skilling. “The Iowa Cattlemen’s Association came to us with the idea of using the ISU facilities for this project and although the facility is USDA approved, there were many challenges to overcome as a result of new COVID-19 protocols,” Houser says.


To keep staff safe and healthy at the campus plant, new protocols such as pre-screening body temperature checks, face coverings worn at all times while in the plant and a four-time daily cleaning and disinfecting regime had to be implemented. “The USDA office was also very stringent on the need to keep their safety inspectors healthy and safe from any potential Covid-19 contact,” Houser says. Given the spread of the virus at industrial packing facilities, many USDA inspectors have fallen ill in recent weeks.


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