Professional Butchering Course at SUNY Cobleskill Draws Diverse Crowd

Jared Darling is a generator assembler at General Electric and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. For the past few weeks, he’s been learning the skills of a professional butcher in SUNY Cobleskill’s Meat Processing and Food Safety certification course — both to enhance his home-based farm operations in Summit and as a potential “fall back” career.

“I got into it to better myself as a home processor because my wife and I run a small hobby farm and we produce a lot of our meats,” Darling said. “I wanted to become more proficient in processing multiple species from kill all the way to the freezer.”

The Meat Processing and Food Safety certification course teaches the fundamental skills of professional butchering in a four-part series from May through June. The intensive, hands-on trainings provide instruction in animal slaughter, primal fabrication, retail cutting, creation of value-added products like sausage, wrapping, and storage of finished products.

Darling is in good — and diverse — company. There’s a slaughterhouse worker looking to turn a job into a career. Two business owners. A SUNY Cobleskill student. And there’s Matthew Kollmeier, who is expanding his skillset as a chef.

“Butchery is a dying art and I would like to try to keep it alive,” Kollmeier said. “As we have ended the first two weeks of the course, everything is going very well. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s in store for the next two weeks.”

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Since May, the students have been learning and practicing whole-animal butchery at SUNY Cobleskill’s USDA-approved meat lab, with opportunities to segment carcasses and break muscles down into retail cuts. Instructors are also covering safety, sanitation, and hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP), which are crucial to professional butchering.

The classes are being taught by Eric Shelley of AgriForaging Food Safety, SUNY Cobleskill’s Michael Lapi, Visiting Instructor of Culinary Arts, and Betsy Jensen, Meat Laboratory Manager. Each instructor is an educator with extensive experience in the meat industry.

“They’re great instructors—that’s another big part,” Darling said. “It’s nice to have the butcher and the chef so you get to see how the two come together.”

The Beef Slaughter and Processing session runs until June 21. The final session, HACCP 2-Day, runs June 22-23.