Who am I?

My name is Brianna Buseman, and I am the author of The Meating Room! I grew up on a farm in SE South Dakota where my family raises cattle.  Being involved in agriculture was a huge part of my life, so much so, I decided I wanted to study it in college.  I attended South Dakota State University where I graduated with a double major in Animal Science and Agricultural Business.  This degree combination let me take a variety of classes, from livestock nutrition, meat science, genetics, and swine production to economics, accounting, and marketing. 

Following graduation, I decided to continue my education and moved to Idaho for graduate school.  In May 2020 I graduated from the University of Idaho with a master’s degree in Animal Science with a Meat Science emphasis. 

Currently, I am the Youth Meat Animal Extension Assistant Professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In this position, I focus on engaging students and developing materials to teach them about meat science.

Now, what exactly is meat science?  Well, basically it is the study of all things meat:

What makes meat tender? 

What makes meat taste good? 

What steps can we take to make sure meat is safe for people to eat?

What can we do to make sure consumers are satisfied every time they eat a steak, or a pork chop, or (insert whatever cut of meat you prefer)?

PLUS we get to jump into other areas of animal science, like how livestock genetics and nutrition impact meat. Meat science takes every step in the production process, adds it together and serves it to you in the form of a big, juicy, T-bone steak.  So that’s meat science in a nutshell, and I think it’s so cool!

Through my education and in this current position, I have the opportunity to learn a lot of interesting information and hear of cool research that is happening to try to improve the eating experience for consumers. I will use this blog as a way to share some of what I know and continue to learn. I hope this page will become a good resource to help answer any questions you may have about the industry and to demonstrate the steps that go into producing a high quality, nutritious product. For the most up to date content, check out The Meating Room podcast!


Harvest the Fruit, Burn the Tree, and Move On

About a month ago I defended my thesis, completing my M.S. degree in Animal Science at the University of Idaho.  Following my defense, I packed up my apartment, loaded a U-Haul and hit the road back to South Dakota.  The past few weeks I have been busy at home helping AI cattle, butchering a pig for our family, and finishing up my TA responsibilities.  Although it has been so great to spend time at home with my family, it was a tough way to say goodbye to what had become a second home.

Two years ago, when I made the decision to move to Idaho, I was excited, but also nervous.  I was excited for new adventures, but nervous about doing research and making friends.  I had never worked in a lab before and my meat cutting skills were limited to what I had learned in the Intro to Meat Science course in my undergrad. On top of that, I didn’t know anyone in Idaho.  I had met the professors I would work with during my two-day interview, but other than that, I didn’t know a soul. To say I was intimidated would be an understatement.

I knew that Idaho was the place I was meant to be.  I had prayed a lot about this decision and after meeting with the professors I would work with, I knew the move was the right decision. Shortly after I moved to Idaho, I began to get to know the other graduate students and our undergraduate lab employees.  As research projects ramped up, we spent more time on the kill floor, in the processing room, and in the chemistry lab.  Although it took a while, I became more confident and comfortable with these processes.

I was busy preparing for my final defense when the quarantine began. At first, it was nice to be able to work from home. I had no excuse not to get my thesis finished and my presentation put together.  Soon, however, I realized that this was how I was going to end my experience in Idaho.  Graduation was cancelled, research projects were postponed, classes and my final defense was moved online. I had moved 1200+ miles from home, built a life in a new state, made friends that became family, and this is how I was to say goodbye. 

During this time, a story that a pastor had shared with our congregation a few years prior kept coming to mind:

A man had a beautiful apple tree that he tenderly cared for. It was his pride and joy. One night, a storm came through and tore the tree from the ground.  The next day, his neighbor came over and said, “You put so much time and effort into helping this tree grow, what are you going to do now?”  The man with the tree turned to him and said, “I’m going to harvest the fruit, burn the tree, and move on.”

Harvest the fruit: My experience in Idaho was incredible. I am so proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone and moving somewhere new. I learned so much, was able to see some incredible sites, developed strong friendships and gained experiences that prepared me well for my future career.

Burn the tree: I was sad, but I let myself be.  I had worked hard on my degree and was disappointed that this is how it was coming to an end. I let myself mourn the ending that I had planned for and wasn’t able to experience.

Move on: I am home now, and I am so thankful for the time I have been able to spend with my family. In a few weeks, I will begin my job at University of Nebraska-Lincoln working as an Extension Assistant Professor. Had the pandemic not occurred, I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy this time with my family and it would have been a quick transition from school into the new job. It is easy to be upset with all that has been happening in our world, but the time at home has been a major blessing.

There is a lot of sad things happening in our world, but I rest assured that it is in God’s control. For me, I know that although it may have come to a bittersweet end, I will forever be thankful for the time I had in Idaho. It is an experience I will not soon forget. 

I am an Animal Scientist.

It still amazes me sometimes that I am going to be an animal scientist.  When I started college, I wanted to be a banker.  I started off my education by pursuing a degree in agricultural business, and later added the animal science major because although I grew up on a farm, I wanted to have a better understanding of the whole industry.  The dual degree allowed me to take courses as vast as economics and agricultural marketing, to swine production and livestock nutrition.  It provided a broad view of the industry.

Now, as I pursue a master’s degree in meat science (formally a master’s in Animal Science), I can use that broad view to focus on specifics.  For example, understanding the combination of livestock genetics, nutrition and environment animals are raised in can help us make predictions as to what the characteristics of the meat will be.  Will this combination provide a lean product?  Will it be high quality (ex.  choice vs. prime)?  Will this animal produce a good eating experience for our consumers?

The past couple weeks, I have been able to attend two conferences that showcased research being done by animal scientists all over the country.  From meat science, to nutrition, to genetics, to reproduction, there is an incredible amount of research going on to help improve livestock production.  No matter what discipline the researchers are focused, we all have the same goal:  to discover ways to make livestock production more efficient and sustainable, to offer resources to producers to help produce the best product possible, and to improve production methods to best care for the livestock we raise. 

When people think of animal science, I am certain there are a lot of mixed reactions.  I certainly get an array of responses from people I talk to on airplanes!  Animal science is an incredible field and offers a vast array of opportunities.  I am so thankful that I made the decision to add animal science courses to my undergraduate degree.  I never could have predicted the opportunities it would bring or the direction it would lead, but I am certainly excited to see where it goes!

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!

A Picture of Life on the Farm

Recently my Facebook timeline has been full of people doing a “10-day farming and ranching challenge.”  A picture each day for 10 days showing what life on the farm looks like but without any explanations.  Just a picture, no words. 

Now, I know that a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes a little context is a good thing.  This week, I am going to take a little detour from our meat safety and quality conversations and share a little insight into what being involved in agriculture has looked like for me. 

This time of year is so exciting on the farm because babies are being born!  I have so many great memories going out late at night with my dad to see if any lambs or calves were born. Right now, my family is in the midst of both lambing and calving.  There have been some extremely cold temps and snowy days the past few months in South Dakota; however, it doesn’t matter what the temperature is outside, farmers and ranchers don’t get a snow day.  They go to work, day and night, to ensure that their livestock is cared for.

Blue sky, green grass, black cattle, one of my favorite views!  Every summer, we bring our cattle to the pasture for a few months.  After long, dreary winters, it is so encouraging to see new life, both in the vegetation and in the baby calves! 

Putting up hay.  Not exactly the most fun job on the farm (or photogenic), but it’s work that needs to be done.  Typically, it’s the hottest days of the summer when the hay is ready to be put into the barn.  It’s a hot, dusty, job.  Storing hay during the summer gives us an ample supply to use during the winter during lambing and calving.  Square bales (like what is in the picture), can be used for bedding or as feed, depending on what the bale is made of.  It may be a lot of work in the summer, but when winter comes along we are sure thankful that the job got done!

I know that this isn’t a farm picture, but I had to include it.  It is still crazy to me to think that someday I am going to be a meat scientist.  How crazy is that?!  The agricultural industry offers so many opportunities for careers outside of farming and ranching; meat science, nutrition, genetics, and so much more.  I am so excited to see where this path leads me and what opportunities lie ahead!

You simply can’t beat South Dakota sunsets!  I grew up looking at this view every day.  I am so thankful to have grown up on a farm and for all the values that it instilled in me.  I learned the value of hard work and how to work as a team.  No matter where I end up in the future this will always be one of my favorite views.

Most importantly, on a farm  you don’t go to an 8-5 job where you become acquaintances with your co-workers.  Farms run on families.  Did you know that 98% of farms are family owned and operated?  Farming isn’t just a job, it’s a lifestyle; one that everyone must commit to.  Whether it be working with livestock, harvesting crops, putting up bales, or making meals for the people in the field; everyone is involved.  I’m so thankful for this bunch and couldn’t have asked for a better crew to call my family.

These are just a few photos are just a snapshot of what life on the farm looks like. I am so thankful to be involved in this industry and I hope this detour gave you a look into the ag world!