University Highlight- University of Wyoming

Sep 06, 2019

Incredible meat scientists gain their knowledge through experience not just in the workplace, but through education and opportunities provided in and out of a classroom. The American Meat Science Association would like to take an opportunity to showcase those universities who help students grow into successful individuals. A new project for AMSA’s consumer website, “The Meat We Eat”, involves getting to know these universities important to meat science. This week’s university showcase is the University of Wyoming.

 

As the only four-year college in the state, the University of Wyoming prides itself in being able to provide its students with up-to-date, relevant information, both in the classroom and in the field. The meat and food science programs have been well established at the University of Wyoming for decades. In 1962, Dr. Carroll Schoonover (Schoony), Wyoming Beef Extension Specialist at the time, attended AMSA's Reciprocal Meat Conference where he interviewed Dr. Ray A. Field to fill the university's first Meat Science faculty position. Dr. Field spearheaded efforts in formal meat science teaching, research, and extension at UWyo. Dr. Field also helped in encouraging the formation of a competitive meat judging team after taking a team of four students to the Southwestern Exposition in 1964. Today, students and faculty of the University of Wyoming have worked to study an array of science, most notably in the areas of collagen degradation, growth properties of E.coli 0157:H7, as well as other meat quality of food safety research areas. The current group of meat science faculty and staff is proud of the work that has been done historically and is excited to continue strengthening the meat science student and research program at the University of Wyoming.  

Getting to Know the University of Wyoming:

How is your university setting itself apart in the field of meat science food science?

“The University of Wyoming meat science curriculum and activity-base is housed within the Animal Science Department. Because of this, all of our students are first trained to be well-versed animal scientists in core disciplines like nutrition, reproduction, animal breeding, etc. Then, our students have the ability to work towards a more specific academic path in the Meat Science and Food Technology option. Of the 32 elective credit hours offered in this option, students gain a diverse knowledge and skill-set in animal growth, meat processing, microbiology, and food safety. Our meat science curriculum is very lab-based; students spend over 60% of class time in the UW Meat Lab learning how to apply scientific and production-oriented principles to harvest, fabricate, and further process meat.

Beyond curriculum, our students are continually exposed to meat science through extracurricular activities such as the Meat Judging team, Quiz Bowl team, and Food Science club. Our Meat Judging program is coordinated by a full-time faculty member who is very involved in the department, its branded meat initiatives, and the students. In addition, UW is home to meat science, food safety, and muscle biology research faculty members, all of whom work to create opportunities for students who are genuinely interested in the industry or graduate school.”

What do you see as your role in the meat industry/food science industry/animal agriculture sector?

“Our role at the University of Wyoming is to expose students in our department and across campus to an industry they may have never considered. Many of our students in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources come from farming and ranching backgrounds, but may not completely understand the many facets of moving livestock from their pastures to a consumer’s plate. We offer a wide variety of coursework to our students in order to draw their attention to meat science and food technology, making them eager to learn more about what they can do as producers to add value to a wholesome product. 

We hope that our academic efforts cause students to realize the meat industry is one they have true interest in. We have had many students complete meat courses or become involved with the Meat Judging team that go on to discover the meat industry in as much entirety as they possibly can. The meat and food industries are complex with varying sizes and location of entities in these industries. Our most important role is to train students that can work in these industries to become future visionaries to change and improve animal agriculture as new challenges arise. This responsibility is met by encouraging employment by the UW Meat Lab, involvement in undergraduate research, exposure through internships, and association with meat and food science organizations. We continue to build collaborative relationships with industry members and companies in order to help connect our students for applied opportunities. This allows students to develop their professional portfolio in ways that compliments their meat science training received at the University of Wyoming. This is why we value attendance at state, regional, and national meat science/food science conferences. Additionally, we support the livestock and meat industries through outreach and research objectives. ”

Best advice for students to succeed at any university if they choose to follow the meat/food science path?

“Meat science and food production are large industries that have tremendous career opportunities. Students should get involved in any way they can to take advantage of any and all opportunities. The more that students can be involved in meat and food science activities, the more experiences each student will have to help prepare him or her for future careers. Our best advice is to get involved! Meat judging, meat animal evaluation, clubs and student programs, undergraduate research, quiz bowl and attending RMC, taking additional meat science courses, and connecting with industry through internships are all great ways to get involved. At the University of Wyoming, not only do we encourage those activities, but we are very strong supporters of student internships. We encourage every student to apply for and complete many internships throughout their college careers. The best kind of learning happens outside the classroom and allows a student to truly put their knowledge and skills to work. It is our opinion that internships are the best way for students to “test drive” a career in the meat industry, identify how they can best use their talents in a future career, and potentially discover something new and exciting along the way.” 

McKensie Harris, Dr. Cody Gifford, and Sierra Jepsen, faculty at the University of Wyoming, wanted to add additional thoughts to their article, emphasizing the importance of not just their own program, but meat science as a whole. They stated simply:

“Employers love to see that students are not only committed to their studies while working towards their degree but are able to juggle extracurricular opportunities and still maintain acceptable grades. The University of Wyoming offers a plethora of opportunities for students to be involved in such as the Meat Judging Team, Quiz Bowl team, meat lab student employment, in-state and out of state conferences, as well as connections to 4-H and FFA youth programs.  Our students are building skills such as teamwork, decision making, time management, self-discipline and more, all by getting involved in activities that draw them closer to future careers in meat science and food technology.”

 

Thank you, McKensie Harris, Dr. Cody Gifford, and Sierra Jepsen, for being our spokespeople for the University of Wyoming and being a leaders for students in the industry. The support of universities who excel in meat and food science are essential to growing industry leaders for the future.

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