Last week I had the opportunity to be part of recording a webinar for the Nebraska Pork Producers Association Pork Mentorship program about my experience getting involved in meat science and opportunities within the industry.
I didn’t get involved with meat science until I was in college. It wasn’t until I snuck my way into an upper level meat science course my freshman year that I was introduced to this career path.
What drew me to meat science is that it is really all encompassing. Not only do you have to understand livestock production in terms of genetics, nutrition and handling, but there is also a whole host of things can influence meat quality and safety after the animal has been harvested. The process of getting a safe, tasty product from the farm to your table is extensive. Meat science is also a great way to relate to consumers. Not everyone has had the chance to work in a feedlot, but most people have eaten a hamburger. Connecting the story of agriculture through the actual food people consume is a great way to promote the industry.
Through great classes and opportunities in my undergraduate and graduate programs, I was able to learn more about the industry and the science behind meat production. This led to my current role in youth meat extension for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Now, my story is heavy on the academics. I love to learn, and higher education was a good path for me. However, there are so many more ways to get involved in the industry than just working in academia. Being involved in the meat industry can involve a wide variety of careers. Below are just a few areas that barely crack the surface of opportunities within the industry:
- Livestock Production and Health: What happens on the hoof is incredibly important in determining the quality of the product produced. Sickness, stress, bruising, all can lead to later problems with the carcass. Combine that with genetics, diet and environmental factors, and people with roles in this area can make huge impacts in the meat industry.
- Research and development: Everything that you see in the grocery store that contains meat has been researched. This includes determining the safety of the product, nutritional value, flavor, shelf life and best packaging for each product.
- Industry: Packing plants or butcher shops are what most people think of when considering careers in the meat industry. The fact is, they do provide a lot of opportunities. From line workers, management, marketing, and food safety controls, these businesses are incredibly important to the industry and provide thousands of jobs across the country.
- Government: Food safety and meat quality are determined with government oversight. Additionally, jobs in policy, trade, and labeling, all impact the value of the final product.
- Technology: The amount of technology and automation within livestock and meat production blows my mind. From feeding systems for the live animals, to machines that assist in harvest and fabrication, to the packaging that holds the final product, the technological advancement in the industry is incredible. Careers developing and maintaining these technologies are abundant.
Like I said, this list is just the tip of the iceberg. With the growing population and more mouths to feed, career opportunities within the meat industry will only continue to grow. You don’t have to be an animal scientist to be active in the meat industry. I encourage you to look into the world that is meat science, you may be surprised to find that it is right where you belong.