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University of North Dakota football program tackles new initiative that fuels players with North Dakota meat

Ranchers or farmers can donate meat, including beef, chicken and pork from North Dakota-raised livestock, or donors can give money that will be used to purchase the meat from ranches and farms within the state.

A man in a green shirt and gray sweatpants and a man in a green shirt and blue jeans lean against a wooden corral fence with black cows behind it.
Bubba Schweigert, University of North Dakota football coach, left, conceived the idea of serving his players meat in team meals that was raised on North Dakota ranches and farms, including Red River Angus, owned by Frank Matejcek, of Grand Forks, right.
Ann Bailey / Agweek
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GRAND FORKS, N.D. — University of North Dakota football coach Bubba Schweigert wants to fuel his football team with meat raised on North Dakota farms and ranches.

The UND Alumni Association and Foundation is working to achieve that goal through an initiative, launched in the fall of 2022, called “Meat Up for UND,” which is seeking donations of meat that football players will eat at team meals.

Ranchers or farmers can donate meat, including beef, chicken and pork from North Dakota-raised livestock, or donors can give money that will be used to purchase the meat from ranches and farms within the state.

Monetary donations to Meat Up for UND, besides being used for meat purchases, will be used to incorporate nutrition education into the UND Football program. Meat is a complete protein, which means that it contains all of the amino acids human bodies need.

A few years ago, the UND football team and its coaches began working with a dietitian who has taught them about how the foods they eat affect the players’ performance on the field.

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“It is no doubt that practice and games take a toll on our football players during the season,” Schweigert said in a UND Alumni Association and Foundation fact sheet about the Meat Up for UND program. “Providing an opportunity to bring a science and research-based program focused on nutrition to student athletes at UND will improve muscle protein synthesis, prevent muscle damage and promote recovery."

Schweigert conceived the idea of the meat initiative after talking to the head football coaches of opposing college teams in Montana and South Dakota and at North Dakota State University about what role nutrition played in their programs.

“We went to our dietitians and said, ‘What can we do to help our team?' That’s how it got rolling,” Schweigert said.

This football season, team members are gathering four times a week — three of them after morning practice — for team meals that include meat.

Black Angus cattle stand in a pasture.
Frank Matejcek, who owns Red River Angus near Grand Forks, North Dakota, donated beef to the University of North Dakota Meat Up for UND program, an initiative to benefit the UND football team.
Ann Bailey / Agweek

Frank Matejcek, a 1971 UND graduate and semi-retired Angus cattle rancher near Grand Forks, North Dakota, donated enough beef for a meal that was served to UND football players in August 2022.

The donation was both a way to do something that would benefit his alma mater's players, and at the same time promote a North Dakota-grown product, Matejcek said.

“It’s a win-win,” he said.

The players, for their part, have enjoyed gathering for the thrice-weekly post-practice meat protein-based meals.

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“It’s been really good feedback from our guys,” Schweigert said.

Matejcek is spreading the word about the Meat Up for UND program to other farmers and ranchers who not only raise beef, but also hogs.

"We're working on a network of alumni," he said. There are several ranchers and farmers who are interested in participating in the program.

"Nothing signed and sealed, yet, but they're interested," Matejcek said.

The North Dakota Stockmen's Association and North Dakota Pork Producers Council also have been contacted about Meat Up for UND.

Anyone interested in donating to Meat Up for UND should contact Mitch Wigness, UND College of Arts and Sciences development director at mitchw@UNDfoundation.org or (701) 777-3678.

Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: abailey@agweek.com or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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