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Vandal Mentor and Innovator Remembered at Meat Science Lab Groundbreaking

October 24, 2023

MOSCOW, Idaho — As the longtime manager of Vandal Brand Meats, the late Ron Richard fed Vandals for more than three decades and helped build the stellar reputation of University of Idaho’s meat science program.

Friends of Richard spoke of his many lasting contributions to both meat science and the university while addressing a large crowd at the Oct. 14 groundbreaking ceremony of an estimated $14.1 million meat science laboratory in Moscow that will bear his name.

A 12,750-square-foot abattoir will be called the Meat Science and Innovation Center Honoring Ron Richard and is scheduled for completion by the fall of 2025. It will replace a facility built in the 1960s, providing dedicated spaces to host multiple functions simultaneously, cutting-edge equipment and far greater operational efficiency.

Some of Richard’s family members attended the ceremony, where hors d’oeuvres, including tri-tip beef prepared by Vandal Brand Meats, were served.

“Ron passed away five years ago yesterday, but it’s clear today that his memory and his legacy will continue for generations,” said Matt Doumit, a meat scientist and senior associate dean in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) who worked closely with Richard. “His passions for serving students, the community and the meat industry were unmatched. He left a legacy of hard work, professionalism, innovation, mentoring, service and a deep, deep Vandal pride that will continue to be the hallmarks of the Meat Science and Innovation Center.”

Speaker Laurie Lickley, a former Idaho Cattle Association president and owner and operator of Winecup L. Cattle Co. in Jerome, recalled how Richard cooked the beef when she and her husband, Bill, celebrated their engagement. Richard was a favorite instructor of Lickley’s when she attended U of I who also coached Bill’s livestock judging team.

“Today’s groundbreaking was merely a vision when I was president of the Idaho Cattle Association back in 2016 that today becomes a reality — and in honor of our dear friend Ron Richard,” Lickley said.

Lickley believes the facility will fill an increasingly crucial economic niche as new meat processing plants requiring skilled workers have opened in recent years throughout Idaho, which is home to more than 8,100 cattle operations supporting 2.5 million head of cattle valued at more than $2.6 billion.

CALS Dean Michael Parrella credited the college’s current meats team — which includes Doumit, meat scientists Phil Bass and Michael Colle and Meat Science Lab Manager James Nasados — with building upon the solid foundation both Richard and the late Carl Hunt, who was head of the former Department of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, helped build for the program.

The new meat science lab will be constructed adjacent to the new U of I Seed Potato Germplasm Laboratory, which opened in March 2022. Recognizing both projects, Parrella referenced a street sign displayed behind the speakers’ podium acknowledging the area as Meat & Potatoes Avenue.

Fundraising for the project continues to build momentum, and the bid for sitework has come in significantly under budget.

“Over four years ago, we kicked off the campaign to build this project with an event in Boise and the lead gift from Agri Beef, who were so inspired by Ron’s passion for the industry and his dedication to students that they chose to name the facility in his honor,” Parrella said. “It has been a collective effort to get to this point. I can’t understate the value of partnerships as they have been instrumental in many of the college’s key initiatives. Together with the college and university, support from industry and investment from the state, we’ve been able to accomplish great things.”

The future center will enable CALS to expand upon teaching programs, research, Extension in the form of public outreach and workforce development opportunities.

“The plan is to do more workshops and educational programming because right now we don’t do as much of that as we would like to, because whenever we do a program like that we’re shut down for two days and then we’re having to catch up,” Nasados said.

The center will also continue filling a niche as one of the few USDA-inspected plants where small-scale northern Idaho ranchers can process their beef.

U of I meat science graduates enjoy a 100% job placement rate.

“The new Meat Science and Innovation Center will provide valuable space for hands-on learning, which is the hallmark of what we do here at the University of Idaho,” U of I President Scott Green said. “This project offers another great example of what the U of I can accomplish when private partners, the state of Idaho and our own investments are combined. We are able to do big things.”

Media Contact

John O’Connell
Assistant Director of Communications, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

About the University of Idaho

The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, nine research and Extension centers, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to nearly 11,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky and Western Athletic conferences. Learn more at


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