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Western Meat School

Go From a Price Taker to a Price Maker

If you'd like to grow and scale your direct-to-consumer meat business, then this online meat business training program is designed for you! Over 1,000 people have now taken the Western Meat School, which is a testament to its content, accessibility, and timeliness.

Going It Alone Is Harder Than Ever

Whether you're a livestock producer, meat processor, distributor, or retailer the business of selling niche meats has reached a new level of frustration and opportunity. Competition is fierce, you have to differentiate yourself and your brand.

This online training program created by the Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network of OSU, along with project partners, can help you sidestep the common frustrations and help you stand out and thrive.

Over the course of eight weeks, you will learn proven techniques to:

  • Produce and finish the tastiest livestock (emphasis on cattle, sheep and pigs).
  • Load and handle animals humanely all the way through slaughter.
  • Collaborate with your processor to break down and merchandise your carcasses in the best way.
  • Understand your customer base and learn how to speak to them.
  • Discover new market channels, along with the pros and cons of selling to them.
  • Improve profitability and lower costs and risks.

In short, this meat business training program is an innovative and unique learning experience that will teach you how to successfully market and sell your niche meat products.

Learn the business side of meat producing and selling from the experts

Avoid the common (and pricey) pitfalls and common mistakes by having direct access to the experts.

You’ll learn all the essentials for direct marketing niche meat from experts in production, marketing, processing and pricing and how to sell in multiple market channels. 

In addition to all of the course materials (recorded presentations, slides, and handouts), you'll also be able to chat and pose questions to your instructors and classmates and you'll have rare access to the entire project team for up to six months after signing up.

PAST STUDENT REVIEW: “I'm a forever champion for this course. The perspectives, insight, and recommendations will help me to refine my thought process and enhance my business model. The networking, even though it was virtual, was outstanding and the resources provided were absolutely wonderful!” 

Online Meat Course Overview

Over eight modules (approximately 20 hours of content) you will learn:

  • Module 1: Marketing
    Start with the marketing in mind. Learn how to identify and develop new markets for meat.
  • Module 2: Production
    Finishing ruminants for optimal gains and quality meat, including grass-finishing, pasture-finishing and alternative feeds.
  • Module 3: Hanlding & Harvesting
    Animal handling, meat quality and evaluating life animals. Hoof to rail demonstration part 1.
  • Module 4: Processing
    Basics of meat processing, carcass quality, meat science, fabrication, regulations and how to work with your processor. Hoof to rail demonstration part 2.
  • Module 5: Processing and Packaging
    Processing for specific markets, maximizing carcass value, merchandising the whole animal, and packing and labeling.
  • Module 6: Marketing
    Building your brand and educating your customers. Understanding different buyer preferences for meat.
  • Module 7: Cost of Production and Pricing
    Learn how to determine your costs of production and develop pricing strategies for your meat products in each market channel.
  • Module 8: Optional Hog Module
    Optimal breeds, forages, and finishing for high quality pork & healthy animals. Vertically integrated specialty pork producer example.

This course is designed for: farmers, ranchers, butchers, meat processors, meat distributors, livestock educators, 4H/FFA students and leaders, and more!

PAST STUDENT REVIEW: "I learned that we need to sell the meat, not the steer. Ultimately, customers want to know why the value of our meat doesn't compare to what is purchased at a store. We need to be knowledgeable about the cuts, where they come from and why consumers are into trends. We need to market to those folks. And this course gave me all of that and more. I loved listening to the panels of producers. The boots on the ground is always the best advice to get. Thank you so much!” 

FREE Meat Business Training Resources

Get started for free and learn from some of our guest experts.

Market Your Beef Business and Sell Meat with Social Media

Social media can be a great way to connect with new customers and cultivate loyal customers for your meat business (or other farm products).

Join Dahlia Dill of Chandler Pond Farm from the Northeast Kingdom as she shares what she has learned about best practices using social media to grow your customer base.

How to Boost Revenue and Lower Costs with Online Sales & Logistics
In this round-table webinar, you'll learn how to start with the end in mind and strategically build in your farm to freezer logistics to successfully build and grow your meat business.

Essential LiveStock Practices from Farm to Slaughterhouse
In this webinar, Dr. Ron Gill of Texas A & M AgriLife Extension and Stockmanship & Stewardship will show you the essential tips (and science) to practice that are humane and preserves good meat quality.

On demand. Access any time.
8 weeks
price (2)
Additional Information: View online curriculum

This course is designed for: farmers, ranchers, butchers, meat processors, meat distributors, livestock educators, 4H/FFA students and leaders, and more!

“I greatly enjoyed the Western Meat School. I knew what the topics were but did not realize I would get so much out of it from pricing ideas to production and slaughter. Hearing from other farms and ranches all over the Western US was a huge benefit as they had a variety of experience and knowledge to share. I am ready for Western Meat School 201!”

Meat School Student 1

“I’ve taken other more expensive meat/business classes and personally I felt that what I learned in this course was far more applicable and helpful to what I truly needed, especially for the price. The free resources and knowledgeable speakers helped to deepen my understanding of all aspects of the meat industry. I would definitely be interested in taking more classes like this.”

Meat School Student 2

“The Western Meat School is great for any stage you are at in marketing your animals. As beef producers I felt that the knowledge gained from this class was very helpful to making proper changes in our business to become more profitable and meet the consumer needs at the same time.”

Meat School Student 3

“Being a butcher for over 20 years before I became a producer has given me more insight into the business of meat than the average person. Yet, I learned information about marketing I didn't know and I was also given a different way of looking at breaking down an animal to get more cuts and better yields. I learned more about finishing my animals and I also learned about the live animal handling practices that have been implemented since I was a butcher. All of these items will help me to be more effective, efficient, and hopefully profitable as a producer.”

Meat School Student 4


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. 

Martha Sullins

Martha Sullins is an Extension Specialist and affiliate in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at Colorado State University. Her work focuses on developing tools and information to help livestock producers and fruit and vegetable growers throughout the state identify and reduce business risks. She develops and teaches business management classes, evaluates classroom and field-based educational programs targeted at beginning farmers and ranchers, and works with ag and food producers navigating food safety and business regulations, as well as those starting value-added agricultural enterprises and building new markets for their products. From policy to practices, her goal is to ensure that Colorado food and farm businesses have the ingredients to be successful!

Past Students' Work

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