MFU, UMN RSDP partner on meat processing work with new fellowship
Feb. 8, 2021
Livestock farmers across the state are clamoring for better meat and poultry processing infrastructure, including Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) members.
The University of Minnesota Extension’s Regional Sustainable Development Partnership (RSDP) program, which provides outreach in rural communities, is working to address this issue, alongside MFU’s work in the Legislature on policy solutions.
It made perfect sense for the two organizations to collaborate on meat processing. As part of that collaboration, they have hired Eliza Theis, a third year veterinary and Master of Public Health Student at the University of Minnesota, for a special meat processing fellowship. She is working part-time with MFU this semester to advocate for governmental investment in small- and medium-sized meat processing infrastructure.
“As someone who has raised chickens and worked in processing plants myself, I know how important it is for livestock farmers to have reliable processing options,” Theis said. “I’m excited for this opportunity with MFU and RSDP to expand my studies and support Minnesota family farmers.”
“We have a clear mandate from MFU members to advocate for a better meat processing system as part of our Special Orders of Business at last fall’s MFU state convention,” MFU President Gary Wertish said. “Eliza will be a great asset in fulfilling that mandate. We are delighted to have her as part of our team.”
Additionally, Theis will manage a meat processing working group to address the shortage of slaughter and processing available to small and medium sized animal producers, a problem that has been present for decades but was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The U of M Extension RSDP are very excited about this partnership with MFU,” RSDP Statewide Director Kathy Draeger said. “There are so many opportunities to build meat processing capacity in our state. A range of communities are expressing the need for more meat processing, including Halal meat and tribal access as well as a wide range of farms of various sizes. Our partnership can support research and outreach in this area combined with MFU advocacy for needed solutions.”
Theis grew up near Little Falls, Minn., where she raised backyard chickens and worked on a dairy farm. She has worked at the GNP/Pilgrims hatchery, Freeport Veterinary Services with dairy cattle, at the UMN Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and with the United States Department of Agriculture in processing plants. Within the UMN College of Veterinary Medicine, Eliza is president of the Production Animal Medicine Club and secretary of the Christian Veterinary Fellowship. She plans to work in the poultry industry upon graduation next spring.
Theis can be reached at email@example.com.
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Minnesota Farmers Union—Standing for Agriculture, Working for Farmers (www.mfu.org)