From the Farm – CSU, Chico Meats Lab

Written in Collaboration with Zach Bauer, Meats Lab Student Employee

As many know, Chico, Calif. is home to California State University, Chico and the over IMG_20170217_141643214800-acre diversified University Farm. The Farm gives students hands on experience in the many studies offered in the CSU, Chico College of Agriculture. However, few know that The Farm is home to a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspected Meats Lab.

The Meats Lab was built and started operating in 1969. At which time, it also started selling its farm-raised and processed products to the public. In the mid 1990’s, long time Meats Lab Manager, Jim Holt, saw the need to establish a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan. The Meats Lab started putting into place a HACCP plan before it became USDA law in 1996 following e. Coli outbreaks in fast food. Now, students in the College of Agriculture can get HACCP certification and learn to develop functioning HACCP plans for the industry.

Though the College of Agriculture has several Meat Science courses that utilize the Meats Lab, many other courses use the Meats Lab for feed trials, hands on learning about animal systems and more. The College of Agriculture is home to Dr. Michael Chao, who earned a PhD in Animal Science with specialization in Meat Science and Muscle Biology. With Dr. Chao’s background in Meat Science and current Meats Lab Manager James Richardson, the team sees the Meats Lab continuing its path of an educational environment.

Today, the Meats Lab has an in-house smoker to cure sausages, bacon, smoke turkeys for Thanksgiving and allow experimenting with new sausage recipes. Students are employed in the Meats Lab supervised by James Richards and sell the products they process and make. The Meats Lab always has a selection of sausages, steaks, roast from beef, pork and lamb available.

The Meats Lab is open to the public from 8 AM – 5 PM on Thursdays and Fridays so you can meet the students and buy farm fresh products right there. For more details on products the Meats Lab carries, visit the website. You can also follow the Meats Lab on FaceBook.

Leg of Lamb
• 1 (5-7pound) boneless leg of lamb, untrimmed, and lamb tied with net
• 2 tablespoon of olive oil
• 4 peeled garlic cloves
• 1.5 tablespoon fine sea salt
• 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
• 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
• 1/4 cup dry red wine or beef broth

1. Put rosemary, garlic and olive oil in a food processor and chop to paste and mix with sea salt and pepper.
2. Put lamb in a lightly oiled roasting pan, then rub paste all over lamb.
3. Preheat oven to 350°F.
4. Roast lamb in middle of oven until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of meat registers 140°F, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours. Transfer to a cutting board and let stand 15 to 25 minutes (internal temperature will rise to about 150°F for medium-rare).
5. Add wine to pan and deglaze by boiling over moderately high heat for 1 minute, filter out the brown bits. Season pan juices with salt and pepper and serve with lamb.

Food Safety Recommendations from Dr. Chao:
Most pathogens can be effectively controlled by cooking to an internal temperature of 150°F. However, we need to be aware of cross contamination. Do not put the cooked leg of lamb on the same pan or cutting board that you used to prepare the raw materials. Also, wash hands with soap before serving the food. Finally, do not leave leftovers in room temperature for over 1 hour, put them in the refrigerator immediately to avoid potential microbial growth.

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