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U of I receives $1 Million gift to support new meat science facility

A University of Idaho campaign to create a new meat science center advanced another major step thanks to a $1 million gift from the Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation.

The Agri Beef Meat Science and Innovation Center Honoring Ron Richard will expand educational opportunities for students and animal processing on the U of I Moscow campus.

The University of Idaho campus. File photo

In a news release, the Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation described itself as “dedicated to advancing projects to benefit Idaho.” President of the foundation, Harry Bettis, is a lifelong cattle rancher in southwestern Idaho.

“The best lessons I learned were through working. We’re excited to help students learn about real, practical things through on-the-job training and to provide new opportunities to students and the industry,” Bettis said.

“The Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation has been a long-time partner of the U of I and has shown tremendous commitment to higher education in the state. Their support of this project will ensure the continued development of Idaho’s workforce and positively impact the state’s cattle industry for years to come,” said U of I President Scott Green.

The U of I College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) plans to build a state-of-the-art facility to house its meat science program and the Vandal Brand Meats retail operation. In April, Boise-based Agri Beef, one of Idaho’s best-known integrated meat processors, donated $2 million to the project.

Other major donors, including Northwest Farm Credit Services, have also contributed to the project. The Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation’s gift moves the project over the halfway mark toward the $8 million goal.

In addition to providing one of north central Idaho’s few federally inspected livestock processing facilities, Vandal Brand Meats provides dozens of students with on-the-job experience each year.

Vandal Brand Meats also sells cuts of beef and pork and processed meats including Vandal Franks.

The new meat science facility and retail center honors Ron Richard who led the development of Vandal Brand Meats during his 30-year career with CALS. Richard died in fall 2018 as plans to begin a fundraising campaign for the project were formalized.

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