University dairy and meat shop launches “Row the Boat” ice cream

The vanilla ice cream combines fudge-coffee swirls and peanut butter-filled football candies.

Pilot plant coordinator Ray Miller stands in front machinery used to make ice cream sold on the St.Paul campus on Wednesday, Sept. 6.

Easton Green

Pilot plant coordinator Ray Miller stands in front machinery used to make ice cream sold on the St.Paul campus on Wednesday, Sept. 6.

Christopher Lemke

Shoppers at the University of Minnesota’s meat and dairy store can now find a new product amid shelves of University-made cheese and meat: a P.J. Fleck-inspired ice cream flavor.

A long-time University ice cream developer created the frozen confection, released last week, in a St. Paul campus lab that aims to educate students about food science.

Called “Row the Boat,” the flavor is based on Gophers head football coach Fleck’s favorite treats, and combines fudge-coffee swirls and peanut butter-filled football candies in vanilla ice cream.

Making ice cream is a trial-and-error process, said Ray Miller, who developed the flavor and has made ice cream at the University for over 30 years.

“The main thing is getting the ingredients in and just playing around with them a little bit,” Miller, the University’s food processing facility coordinator, said. “There’s unlimited potential with what you can try. You just have to kind of know what you’re doing before you try it if you want it to turn out right.”

Each week, the Dairy and Meat Salesroom on the St. Paul campus stocks up to 15 types of both ice cream and cheese as well as a variety of meats, some of which come from University students’ and scientists’ research.

Beginning in the 1950s, graduate students in the Meat Science Lab who made foods like ice creams or cheeses for class labs often ended up with leftovers, so they started selling them to the public, said Jodi Nelson, the senior lab services coordinator at the Pilot Plant, the University’s food processing facility.

Today, a portion of the profit from the Dairy and Meat Salesroom — which sees between 200 and 300 customers each week — goes to the Pilot Plant, and the rest goes to other University departments, she said.

The shop also aims to limit food waste from food science classes, said Meat Lab Supervisor Tristan McNamara. He said about 70 percent of the proteins in the store come from classes where students evaluate the meats’ properties.

The rest of the meats in the shop are extras from research, he said, such as animal studies or company-sponsored research on specimens like pig hearts.

For store customer and University assistant professor Amy Smith, the salesroom’s products stand out for their quality and variety.

“I’m an agriculturalist,” she said. “So I like knowing where my meat comes from.”