ST. PAUL (WJON News) - A new program will help put meat-cutting and food safety programs in more Minnesota high schools.

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The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has unveiled the Meat Education and Training Grant Program.

The program will award about $350,000 in funding to develop meat-cutting programs in high schools across the state. The grants can be used to purchase equipment, train staff, and buy livestock for instructional use.

Eric Sawatzke is an agricultural education teacher at West Central Area Secondary School in Barrett. He's already incorporated meat cutting into his curriculum and said he’s excited to see more programs develop across the state.

Just as ag education students have had opportunities to practice welding, small engines, crop production, livestock production, and so many other areas of the agriculture industry, it is evident that meat processing education needs a great boost of support to help close the gap that has plagued livestock producers for years.

The Minnesota Farmer’s Union is promoting the new grant program as another avenue to place high school students in high-demand industries. Minnesota Farmer’s Union President Gary Wertish says many students have never considered meat cutting as a career.

As secondary students contemplate careers, we want them to think about careers in agriculture. This funding is an opportunity for schools to introduce students to a career they likely didn’t even know about.

Applications for the MEAT Grant Program are due March 9th. Find the application here.

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