In 1972 the newly created Food Science program moved into the lower west wing of May Hall, which had previously housed the food preparation areas, and the offices for the campus food service contractors prior to the opening of Rodli Commons a few years earlier. Faculty members, Stan Richert and Jim Chambers, designed the layout for the limited fixed and portable equipment that was available at the time. These included a still retort for canning foods and a steam blancher for processing vegetables. The program had also acquired an ancient “tenderometer”, which was employed for testing the maturity of field crops, especially peas, prior to harvesting. A bank of three huge steam kettles and two functioning walk-in refrigerators were left in tact after the food service operations had moved out.
The meat-processing lab under the direction of Dean Henderson remained on the lower level of the Agriculture Science building.
Chambers and Richert both left the university at the end of the 1972-73 academic year, and were replaced by Steve Ridley from the University of Maine and Henry Leung from the University of Illinois. Ridley recalled his dismay upon seeing the facilities after arriving in the fall of 1974. There was little in the way of equipment; the lighting was inadequate to the point of posing a danger; and the atmosphere of the building was saturated with the distinct aroma of stale sweaty socks coming from the locker room which the program shared with the wrestling team.
The area was well off the beaten track in relation other classroom and lab facilities. Entrance to the classroom and lab was through the basement lounge of east wing of May Hall, which was a men’s’ residence hall. Nevertheless the facility allowed for the teaching of food processing and food engineering labs. The program was given a great boost at the beginning of fall quarter in 1976 when a $50,000 grant from a University Reserve account allowed for the purchase of several critical items for food processing and analytical equipment including a high temperature-short time pasteurizer, a laboratory spray dryer, a blast freezer, a “mixograph” for dough testing, a freeze dryer, a UV-visible spectrophotometer, a fluorimeter, and a Hunter color-color difference meter. The blast freezer was manufactured using locally sourced refrigeration components by electricians and carpenters at the university. After it was built it had to be taken apart and reassembled on site in the lab because it was too big to be moved in through the entrance doors.
Later during the 1976-77 academic year the dairy processing equipment was moved into vacant space that had been the cafeteria serving line directly above the processing lab downstairs. Instructors who used the new facility had equipment for pasteurization, homogenization, separation, and ice cream manufacture. The equipment was connected in such a way that clean-in-place technology could be employed through pipeline connections.
This makeshift facility served the program well for several years. Meanwhile the university continued to push for a new Food Science building, which had been anticipated from the time that the program had been approved by Central Administration in 1968. An early proposal for Food Science to occupy part of a newly designed science building would have coupled Food Science with the Chemistry department in Centennial Science Hall. This was rejected by UW-System.
An important breakthrough came with the approval of funds for a Food Science Addition to the Agriculture-Science building in the 1979-81 university budget. The project, which was budgeted for 3.6 million dollars was begun in 1980, extended westward from the main building. The two-level structure consists of a classroom, an analytical lab, a sensory evaluation center, and three food-processing areas on the lower level. Departmental offices and a conference room occupy the upper level. The new facility was dedicated and came on line in time for fall quarter 1983. Almost all of the existing May Hall equipment was relocated to the new building. Two plant managers were hired. Steve Watters managed the meat processing facility, which includes a slaughter area, a cutting room, and a sausage kitchen along with extensive refrigeration and freezing facilities. Ranee May was hired as the dairy plant manager.
The dairy plant officially opened in September 1984 as a commercial cheese making operation. Ms. May anticipated future manufacture of ice cream, pressed cheese and grade A bottled milk at some time in the future. In the winter of 1986 a retail diary store was opened in the new Food Science facility. The store offered more than 30 flavors of ice cream, fresh curds, cheddar cheese and several meat products. May and Watters supervised student workers who produced the products and staffed the store.
It would be difficult to overstate the impact of these excellent facilities on the education of students who have gone through this program. The dairy and meat processing facilities provide real world experiences that combine classroom learning with hands-on activities such as antibiotic testing, milk processing, cheese making, and ice cream manufacturing.