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Meat Processor Academy Online

From the creators of the popular Western Meat School comes a new online short course designed to help meat processors grow and thrive while fine tuning their business.

The Meat Processor Academy is geared towards processors with 25-150 employees. Smaller processors may also benefit, if you intend to grow to that scale in the near future. Ideally, you will also have at least 2 years of operating experience and be an owner/operator/manager of the business. Start-up processors have taken the course and found benefit from it, yet the content is of intermediate to advanced level understanding.

The short course content is geared primarily towards full service inspected and fee-for-service processors. However, further processors, co-packers and custom exempt processors that plan to grow into inspection are also welcome.

Grow Your Meat Processing Business

This self-paced program is a great way to take your meat processing business to the next level. You will gain detailed information to help you improve your operations. This includes learning how to integrate lean manufacturing principles to increase your efficiency and measuring increased productivity using Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). You will also look at how to develop product specs, Standard Operating Procedures and other record keeping systems.

In this course you will also explore financial aspects, such as product costs, ways to contain those costs and pricing strategies that can increase your margins. You will learn how to evaluate facility considerations, such as wether or not to repair, renovate and rebuild, as well as alternative wastewater solutions for small and mid-scale facilities. And you'll look at how to access capital to finance major projects.

The program will also help you develop marketing strategies for your business, including evaluating the effectiveness of different marketing channels and planning out your marketing strategies. It will also help you consumer trends, product differentiation, and values-based marketing.

Attract Top Talent and Build Humane Practices

Growing your meat processing business requires hiring and retaining top talent. In this program you'll investigate strategies to attract and retain good staff. And you'll investigate plant management training and methods to foster professional development throughout your operations.

As an optional class for those of you that handle and slaughter live animals, you will also learn how to build humane animal practices throughout your business, with a focus on maintaining meat quality through humane handling practices. At the end you should have a better understanding of how to write a robust humane handling plan with a strategy of how to operationalize it in your business.

What You'll Gain in This Course

In addition to everything covered above, you'll also learn how to:
  • Upgrade your chart of accounts and improve bookkeeping practices
  • Better evaluate new business enterprises.
  • Conduct feasibility studies for new growth opportunities.
  • Build or revise business plans for existing operations.
  • Develop a value proposition for a product or service.
  • Build a wastewater and solid waste strategy.

You will gain access to an expertly designed online course that includes:

  • 14 modules that include a one-hour pre-recorded lesson with an expert speaker, along with Q&A from the audience.
  • PDFs of all the slide presentations.
  • Samples of Chart of Accounts, Budgeting Tools, KPIs, SOPS, Market Channel Assessment, and more for you to go deeper on a subject and integrate into your business.
  • An opportunity to earn a Certificate of Completion by completing a simplified 2-page Business Plan.
  • Access to two expert instructors to ask questions or bounce ideas off of.
On demand. Access any time.
price (2)

The Meat Processor Academy experience was excellent. I learned at least one or two important and new pieces of information from each presenter and learned a lot more than that from several of the presenters. As a third-generation meat plant owner, this course helped me to define goals and the steps to take to achieve those goals to elevate our business into a more savvy shopping experience, workplace, and service provider. The presentations were well-curated and provided a great learning opportunity for processors just getting started, as well as to businesses with decades of experience. I highly recommend the Meat Academy program.

Meat Processor Academy Student


Rebecca Thistlethwaite

Rebecca is an Extension Specialist and Director of the Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network, housed at Oregon State University. She has a master's degree in International  Agricultural Development from the University of California-Davis and  was formerly co-owner of TLC Ranch, a mid-scale organic pastured poultry  and livestock enterprise in California. She is author of two books on  farming- Farms With a Future: Creating and Growing a Sustainable Farm Business (2012) and The New Livestock Farmer: The Business of Raising and Selling Ethical Meat (2015).

David Zarling

David Zarling, is a career butcher with extensive boots-on-the-ground experience in humane handling and slaughter, whole animal fabrication and value-added processing, both as an operator and plant manager. Most recently, David has been traveling the country training small to mid-sized producers and processors to build and maintain profitable businesses while staying true to their values. He provides consulting services to processors, always looking through the lens of 'our people are our greatest asset'. He specializes in plant management training, food safety and operations program management, and new product development. David is transitioning out of his role as Director of Operations for Cured Processing in the North Cascades, a value-added meat processing facility focused on old-world techniques and modern manufacturing values, and is the new Program Manager for NMPAN. 

Past Students' Work

Take a look at some recent projects our students have created.