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UW Extension offers free video course details processing carcasses

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

A video course showing the processing of beef, pork and lamb carcasses into different meat cuts – and the correct cooking methods – is available from the University of Wyoming (UW) Extension. 

“The free course, 4-H Meat Fabrication, was developed to help 4-H youths identify cuts of meat during their competitions, but the information is useful for anyone,” said Johnathan Despain, state 4-H program coordinator. He said the courses will also include wild game processing. 

“If someone wants to know how and what the different cuts of meat they’re buying from the grocery come from and from what parts of the animal, this is a great way to see the process all the way through,” he said. 

Useful information 

The course contains voluntary quizzes to check knowledge and was developed to create more online resources to help 4-H and FFA members increase their meat product fabrication and identification skills, particularly for the organizations’ meat evaluation contests, Despain said.  

Kelcey Christensen, former manager for the UW Meat Lab, processes meat from beef, pork and lamb carcasses and then into cuts such as steaks, pork chops and lamb chops. He is now the owner of 307 Meat Company in Laramie. 

Quizzes were developed for 4-H and collegiate audiences, “But the content is for anybody,” said Despain. 

McKensie Harris, lecturer in the Department of Animal Science in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, provided technical expertise, ensuring the content is correct. 

Additionally, she’s used the course for her carcass fabrication class members. 

“They are an excellent resource for students to review the skills they learn in the lab or review the cuts coming from each primal,” she said. 

Information for all 

The idea for the course was not originally for 4-H’ers, said Despain. 

“It didn’t have anything to do with what I was doing,” he added. “It just connected.” 

His brother-in-law was trying to figure out how to make the different cuts while processing an elk. 

“He said they went online and scoured the internet, but could not find anyone to teach how to process an animal. This stuck in my mind,” said Despain. 

He discovered the same thing while visiting with 4-H leaders teaching their members meat identification and processing. 

“Those two things gelled for me and I wondered what we could do that not only helps our kids judging program, but also helps people like my brother-in-law or any enthusiast out there,” said Despain. “Now there’s a place they can watch and repeat.” 

Community impacts 

Course development also coincided with COVID-19 shuttering or slowing down processing plants. People wanted to process their own meat, and local meat processors were booked. 

“When the pandemic hit, shipping stopped, restaurants were closed and animal processing slowed down,” said Despain. “It had everybody thinking, ‘If I can’t get access, what do I do?’ In Wyoming, we are resilient people, and individuals started saying, ‘We could get our animals processed and feed our neighbors in the community.’” 

This raised concerns regarding finding a place to process an animal, which will probably be an ongoing issue in the state, he said. 

The effort also coincided with First Lady Jennie Gordon’s hunger initiative and the 4-H program’s first-time deer hunt.  4-H’ers took their wild game to be processed and donated to the initiative. 

“We told the kids they should check these videos out, so they could process their animals at home and donate the meat to the First Lady’s initiative,” said Despain. 

The course also has a cooking methods resource. National 4-H and FFA contests require participants to apply the best cooking method for a particular piece of meat. 

“It only made sense we go the full score of it,” said Despain. “If we’re going to provide a digital learning platform for all those cuts, we want to serve multiple purposes. Ensuring the cooking methods were included was a priority.” 

This article was written by University of Wyoming Extension Senior Editor Dr. Steve Miller and is courtesy of the University of Wyoming. Miller can be reached at For more information, visit 

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