Contact: Vanessa Beeson
STARKVILLE, Miss.—Mississippi State-grown sweet potatoes have gone to the dogs, literally. Scientists in the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station at MSU have created locally-sourced sweet potato dog treats made from the university vegetable and now available for purchase at the MAFES Sales Store.
The freeze-dried sweet potato dog bones and pawprints are part of an initiative to create value-added products for sweet potato growers in Mississippi, which the USDA ranks third nationally for sweet potato production.
Jane Parish, professor and head of the North Mississippi Research and Extension Center in Verona, said these sweet potatoes are ripe for the emergence of value-added products.
“Many sweet potatoes don’t make the grade because of irregular size or shape, but they’re still perfectly good. We have developed sweet potato dog treats as a value-added product to reduce waste and increase profitability and sustainability for one of North Mississippi’s most important agricultural commodities,” she said.
While Parish focused on bringing the product to market, Kelsey Harvey, an assistant professor and MAFES animal nutritionist stationed at the Prairie Research Unit in Monroe County, concentrated on product development.
“I think sweet potatoes are under-recognized in both human and animal nutrition. They are densely packed with essential vitamins and minerals. That’s why we chose our preparation method—so all those nutrients are readily available to the animal in a shelf stable format,” she said.
Harvey said the project has been an “incredible learning experience.”
“It’s also been inspiring to improve the sustainability of agricultural production and hopefully contribute to the economic vitality of sweet potato producers,” she said.
Rounding out the team is Lorin Harvey, assistant professor and sweet potato specialist with the MSU Extension Service at the Pontotoc Ridge-Flatwoods Branch Experiment Station, less than 35 miles from Vardaman, the “Sweet Potato Capital of the World.”
“This is an excellent opportunity to create value-added products for a category of sweet potatoes that might not otherwise be utilized,” he said.
He said the team hopes to create more products to move this grade of the vegetable from a liability to an asset.
“While there is nothing wrong with these sweet potatoes, as it stands right now, in some cases depending on the year, the demand for these potatoes is so low, it’s an overall loss for the grower,” he explained. “Our hope is that by creating these additional value-added products, we can improve the price of sweet potatoes that don’t make the grade.”
For more on the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, visit www.mafes.msstate.edu. Treats are available for purchase in 1.75-ounce bags at the MAFES Sales Store. Learn more about the MAFES Sales Store by visiting www.msucheese.com.
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