Head Above Water

Do you ever have days where you feel like there is so much going on that you are struggling just to keep your head above water?  Maybe it’s more than just a day, maybe it seems more like a week or a month!  The past few weeks have been that way for me.  I have been so busy with travel and research that it seems like I’ve just been fighting to stay on top of all my responsibilities.  Now that I am back in Moscow for a few weeks it is a good time to reflect back on all that has been happening.

Following the judging contest we took in a few sights of Chicago.

Chicago, IL:  This was quite the trip.  I chaperoned five undergraduate students to the Meat Animal Evaluation Contest at the University of Illinois in Champaign, Illinois.  The students participated in live animal evaluation, where they looked at breeding animals (those that will be used to produce offspring.  It is ideal for animals to have good genetics, bone structure, and size to be able to carry offspring.), market animals (hogs, cattle and sheep that are going to be harvested.  Ideally, these animals have a lot of muscle and adequate fat), and meats (carcasses were evaluated for yield and quality, and retail cuts, ie. steaks/porkchops, were ranked).  It was a great opportunity for our students to be able to compete in this contest and for me to be able to lead them!  Following the contest, we spent a little time in Chicago living the tourist lifestyle.   

Anacortes, WA:  The last weekend in March, I went to the Northwest Meat Processors Association convention.  This conference hosted local meat processors from across Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Montana, who were able to bring their best products to be entered into a contest.  That’s right, a contest of bacon, ham, jerky, sausage, salami and more!  I was lucky enough to get to help judge the fresh sausages (I tried over 40 different kinds!).  It was such a fun experience to be able to see all the hard work and pride that the processors put into their products. 

The meat science grad students from the University of Idaho after an awesome tour of Del Fox Meats at the Meat Processors Association Convention.

Boise, ID:  My final trip took me to Boise for a food safety training.   Hazard Analysis, Critical Control Points (HACCP) training taught me how to look for potential problems in a meat processing facility and how to mitigate those issues.  We are specifically concerned with physical (bone chips), chemical (cleaning products) and biological (Salmonella) hazards.  Every meat processing plant has to have a HACCP plan in place where they go through every step of the production process, identify any hazards that could potentially occur, and establish a plan on how to monitor those hazards and ensure that safe food is making it to the consumer. 

On top of travelling, we have been busy with research.  The PhD student that I work with is wrapping up her project.  For her work we had to measure pH and temperature on carcasses and often had to do checks throughout the night.  Waking up at 3 am to go into a cooler isn’t always fun, but I have made some great memories working on this project!

Busy, busy, busy.  It is so easy when we are in a busy season to wish time away.  “If I just get through this trip, then I can get to the next one and then I can get a break.”  It’s easy to get worn out and forget how great of an opportunity some of these experiences are.  Looking back at the past few weeks it amazes me the experiences that I have gotten to take in and the people I have met.  I’m very thankful to have all these opportunities, but I’m also thankful to be back in Moscow and have some time to catch up on things before the next busy season approaches!

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