OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

OSU students to market products under own label

05/21/1997

CORVALLIS - Entrepreneurial Oregon State University undergraduates taking classes at OSU's Clark Meat Science Center will hold an open house on May 29 to introduce to the public their own brand of meat.

The OSU students plan to market products such as sausage, jerky, pepperoni, salami, smoked turkeys and smoked turkey breasts under the name "Singletree Meat Products."

The 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. open house, including a ribbon cutting at 12:30 p.m., will feature free samples of the meat products, door prizes and freshly grilled fajitas for 50 cents each, according to Connie Robertson, an OSU senior from McMinnville.

The effort started with Oregon's property tax revolt.

Several years ago, a small band of ambitious students taking classes at the meat center - which is associated with OSU's Department of Animal Sciences - started developing and selling processed products. The students hoped to offset funding cuts associated with Ballot Measure 5, said facility director Bob Dickson.

"The Business," as it was called in the early years, started slowly. The students sold ground beef to OSU dormitories, and ham and sausage gift packages to consumers around winter holidays.

Then sales grew, reaching a point where Dickson contacted representatives of the meat industry in Oregon and other western states to make sure they weren't upset about the competition from Corvallis.

It turns out "The Business" was helping private industry, providing experienced workers.

"All of a sudden we had a 100 percent placement record for students who wanted to enter the meat industry, and the meat center began getting calls for interns for summer work," Dickson said.

"Many times there were more positions available than students to fill them," he added.

Students started looking for a way to "really show some form of ownership," he said.

They stumbled on the new brand name, Singletree Meat Products, during a barbecue at Dickson's home when a student spotted a lone oak tree in a nearby field. "It reminded him of the meat center, standing alone against the tide (of funding cuts)," said Dickson.

Students working on Singletree products take courses through OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences such as "Introductory Meats," "Advanced Animal Food Technologies," "Foodborne Illnesses," and a course offered through the university's College of Home Economics and Education called "Food Product Development and Marketing."

They also grow some of their raw material through a "Steer A Year" program supervised by OSU animal science professor Dale Weber. Oregon cattle producers donate animals and each student is responsible for raising, packaging and selling a steer. The animals are butchered at the meat center.

"This whole approach gives them as much real business experience as possible," said Dickson, "not only with livestock production, product development, marketing and sales, but with things like food safety. We teach them how to be very, very careful."

In past years, two to 10 students participated in the product development and sales. "But from what I hear we may have 50 students next year," said Dickson.

The meat science center is behind the OSU Motor Pool, just off Campus Way between 30th and 35th streets. For more information on the open house call the center at 541-737-3414.