Not only do the Oink Burgers have the appeal of being a locally grown food product, they add an exciting facet to an agriculture education for TTU students.
“We’re taking it all the way from feeding out the baby pigs to processing them,” said Pat Bagley, dean of the College of Agricultural and Human Sciences. “It helps us educate the students about food safety and production issues, from conception to consumption.”
Pigs that students have raised on the Shipley Farm will be taken to Wampler’s Farm, a pork processing plant in Lenoir City that is operated by TTU alumni. Then the all-pork burgers are served at various campus events or sold at the IGA on North Washington Avenue and the IWC on Willow Avenue in Cookeville.
Because the university’s farms are self-supporting, the Wampler’s agreement may help the farm operation’s financial health.
“What we’re looking for is to see, if nothing else, if there’s the ability to break even on our pigs, if we can raise them from piglets to pork burgers without losing money,” said agribusiness professor Michael Best, who is working on a cost analysis with animal science professor Bruce Greene and two students, Chelsea Rose and Tyler Eaton.
The partnership exposes TTU animal science students to another way farmers and agriculturalists can make money. Farmers often have to sell their product for any price they can get. A fair market value might vary greatly over time. In the agreement, TTU farm operators are able to agree to a price for the pork before they deliver the pigs to Wampler’s.
“Farmers are businessmen looking for different ways to market their products, and this shows our students there’s more than one way to market your stock,” said Billye Foster, director of the school of agriculture. “This lets them see it from a real-world standpoint, not just out of a book. In agriculture, we have to eventually find a way to put it into the real world.”