Iowa government leaders rolled out a new program last week to process cattle for distribution to Iowa food banks.

The program follows on the heels of a successful effort to source hogs from farmers impacted by packing plant shutdowns earlier this spring, which distributed thousands of pounds of ground pork to those in need around the state.

Through this new effort, called “Beef Up Iowa,” cattle will initially be sourced from 4-H and FFA members who have limited processing options due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The meat will be processed by students and staff at the Iowa State University (ISU) Department of Animal Science.

“From family farms to the grocery store shelves to our family’s dinner table, our entire food supply chain has been impacted by COVID-19,” Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said. “Beef Up Iowa brings high quality, nutritious beef to families in need of food security. I want to thank Iowa’s beef producers and generous members of the community who are all stepping up to help Iowans in need.”

Beef Up Iowa will officially begin when the first cattle are delivered July 1. Processing will continue through the summer and for as long as funds remain. The beef will be distributed through the Iowa Food Bank Association and the six Iowa food banks that service the state.

Dr. Dan Thomson, chair of the animal science department at ISU, said the program is based in service and aligns with the university’s land grant mission.

“We are pleased to partner to serve Iowans in need,” said Thomson. “We have faculty, staff and students involved in the process. A program like this not only allows us to serve our neighbors, it also offers hands-on learning to future meat scientists who may be inspired to open their own processing facilities in the future.”

Iowa food banks and food pan­­tries have seen increased de­mand due to the pandemic, while processing options for Iowa beef producers have decreased.

Reynolds has allocated federal CARES Act funds received by the state to help cover processing costs and provide beef to food insecure Iowans. However, there are costs associated with purchasing cattle, and the storage, transportation and delivery of the beef to food banks and pantries.

To donate funds to support this program, visit the Iowa Cattlemen’s Foundation at