On the campus of Montana State University a popular class mixes spices and ideas to develop value-added products for less expensive cuts of beef for livestock producers looking to sell their beef in a different way to gain more customers.

The students in Jane Boles, meat processing class, get experience, a grade and the chance to taste some really great food.

“We've been doing it for nine years. That's a lot of different products but there hasn't been a mediocre product in the bunch. They do a fabulous job,” said Boles. She is an associate professor in Animal and Range Sciences and teaches the popular class.

For the first seven years ago, they developed the products on their own. Two years ago they began the challenge of developing products for real clients.

Listening to consumer demand, more and more producers are looking at ways to take at least some of their animals from calf to table. Value-added products are one way that can be done. In Boles class, students work with a client to develop a food product the client wants to replicate and market.

“The students have to learn to think outside the box,” said Boles. “I don't have a box, especially in that class. The more creative they are the more fun they have,” she said. Boles tries to limit the class size and places the students in small groups. They work together to create and test a variety of ideas that use beef, pork or poultry.

In the first lab she has them taste seasonings.

“They mix them together and see if they work or overwhelm. Every year I hear a lot of comments like, ‘I didn't know that tasted like that,' or ‘that's just nasty.' And then we always have the hazard of jalepeño and habeñero powder. Every once in a while we get a guy who will think they can take more of that than they can,” Boles said.

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