The annual California Association of Meat Processors Conference at California State University, Fresno this weekend is drawing nearly 100 independent processors and college students from throughout California for three days of competition and a trade show.

This is the first time the university is hosting the event which provides student opportunities to interact with the industry and gives employers a look at the next generation of meat processing professionals, said John Henson, a Fresno State meat science professor.

The Feb. 17-19 conference also provides information about trends in fine dining and the culinary arts as well as food safety and processing technology.

The conference is sponsored by the California Association of Meat Processors which is affiliated with the American Association of Meat Processors, a national trade organization representing more than 1,800 meat, poultry and seafood processors, wholesalers, retailers, caterers, home food service companies and suppliers to the meat industry. CAMP has about 80 members.

The event is hosted by the Fresno State Animal Science Department and its student organization, the Fresno State Meat Science Club.

Henson said the university hosted the event because it gives students an opportunity to prepare meat for competition as well as see firsthand trends in the profession the students will be entering. A panel of judges will be evaluating products from entrants throughout the weekend.

Fresno State students have won competitions in the past including the National Meat Association’s Annual Gourmet Sausagefest in Las Vegas in 2002, when Fresno State became the first university to win the commercial competition, and the California Association of Meat Processors Student Competition in 2004.

“The success of the students is attributed to the breadth of the Animal Science instructional program, which blends theory with practice using the outstanding facilities available on campus,” said Daniel Bartell, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology.

Fresno State’s Animal Science Department offers a bachelor of science in animal science that has four options, including Production Management Option with a Meat Technology emphasis

Fresno State has a 4,500-square foot multi-functional meat lab facility located in the Agriculture Pavilion on Barstow and Woodrow avenues at the northeast end of the campus. It contains a harvest floor, a processing room, a smoke/ thermal oven, a cold storage and a kitchen.

The lab is equipped to provide hands-on practice and products of the meat industry for maximum student training, Henson said. Students produce sausage, fresh meat, steaks, roast and other value-added products, which supply the campus Farm Market. The lab is fully-USDA inspected and approved.

Fresno State meat products, like all student-produced agricultural products, may be purchased at the Farm Market located at Chestnut and Barstow avenues. For hours, call (559) 278-4511. For more information about meat science, call 278-2971.