How About a University Steak to Go With That Sweatshirt?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Tongs in hand, you lean over to take in the smoky sizzle of a steak on the grill, and your thoughts naturally turn to ... your alma mater?

That is the plan.

Food stopped being a punch line at most colleges years ago, as salad and burrito bars supplanted the overcooked broccoli and beans. Now, Washington State, a big public university in farm country that has been raising its own cattle for generations to train veterinarians and farmers, is trying to put a brand name on the college’s meat. It shipped the first introductory orders of packed and frozen W.S.U. Premium Beef in January.

Students conducted surveys at football games to determine whether there was an appetite for well-marbled, expensive cuts of Wagyu, a Japanese breed raised here since the 1990s. Unsurprisingly, in a sea of tailgate parties, they found ample evidence for a market share.

Officials have since been promoting the product through campus dinners hosted by the School of Hospitality Business Management, and they say W.S.U. Premium Beef could also help recruitment at the animal sciences department, where student ranchers ride point in Wagyu husbandry from calving to packing. Revenue from beef sales, meanwhile, could help fill some of the gaps left by years of deep state budget cuts. Wagyu typically sells for about $5 a pound more, sometimes much more, than regular beef. The university is offering a variety box for $9.50 a pound.

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