Featured Member

Joe M. Regenstein

Professor Emeritus

Cornell University and Kansas State University

Full Name: Joe M. Regenstein 

Title(s):  Professor Emeritus of Food Science and Head of the Cornell Kosher and Halal Food Initiative in the Department of Food Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY and Adjunct Professor of Food Science in the Food Science Institute at Kansas State University. 

Residence: We’re still living in the Town of Ithaca in the home we bought in 1978. Our two sons now have families of their own in River Forest, IL and Walnut Creek, CA.  I am teaching remotely and asynchronously at Kansas State. 

Q: When, why and how did you become involved in AMSA:   

A: My early research work had a poultry component and I used that component to develop a more detailed look at how individual muscle proteins affect their protein functionality.  The other meetings I was attending did not present an appropriate place to talk about this type of work and AMSA/RMC seemed to be that place. So I joined AMSA and was not disappointed.  

Q: How many RMCs attended? First RMC? Fondest Memory: 

  1. I have probably attended between 8 and 10 RMC meetings.  As mostly a fish scientist in a poultry department, it was a “luxury” to attend AMSA. Over the years, however, I was able to present papers at RMC dealing with muscle physiochemical functionality and/or kosher-halal themes. In my “retirement,” I’m working on projects focusing on kosher beef slaughter; attending RMC is a great fit for my current interests. 

  1. I believe my first RMC was in the late 70’s, soon after I started at Cornell in 1974. 

  1. In those early days, a real treat for me was meeting some of the more senior researchers whose textbooks on muscle and meat I had studied and whose papers I was reading.  The fact that one could easily and informally talk to these top scientists at RMC was really special for me. 

Q: Why did you pursue a career in meat science:   

A: I did not have a career in meat science per se.  I started life at Cornell as a Chemistry undergraduate major and in my junior year took a course in Dairy Science – a dairy analysis course.  That led to an MS in Dairy Science with Dr. John Sherbon working on the protein β-lactoglobulin.  I realized I liked proteins.  I then applied for graduate school including a program at Brandeis in Chemistry but was accepted in their Biophysics Program – it was an interdisciplinary field allowing one to select one’s own science interest, which was good for me.  I worked in a basic muscle biochemistry laboratory in the biology department under Dr. Andrew Szent-Gyorgyi and earned my Ph.D., after which I did a post-doc in the Boston area.  I was invited to apply for an open faculty position in Cornell’s Poultry Science Department’s food group, with teaching requirements in the Food Science Department  and in the Animal Science Department.   

One of my teaching responsibilities was to give the poultry and fish lectures in the introductory meat science course with Dr. Jim Stouffer.  For me an important lecture was his kosher slaughter and processing lecture.  I attended a number of his lectures my first year so I knew the students; they were lost during the kosher talk.  I was fascinated. Jim and I spoke after the class and he suggested I give the lecture the next year with a broader introduction to kosher so students would have more context for the details of the slaughter and processing.  I had to do more work to prepare that one lecture than any other lecture I’ve ever given – but it seemed to work well and became a fixture in the course to this day. Eventually that led to a publication and eventually to the Cornell Kosher and Halal Food Initiative. The paper published in IFT’s Food Technology with my wife Carrie opened many doors, few of which ever closed.  If I recall correctly, it was Dr. Stouffer who introduced me to ASMA. 

Q: Who has been the most influential person in your career? 

A: With respect to meat science, I think our early research work on food protein functionality of the muscle proteins, e.g., emulsification – capacity and stability, water retention and expressible moisture, and solubility remain underappreciated contributions as they still challenge some of the common assumptions of food scientists.  These were first presented at an RMC and published in their proceedings.  This work and my teaching of food protein chemistry led to the publication of our first book (with my wife Carrie): Food Protein Chemistry, which I believe offered a more “critical thinking” view of proteins with ideas that I still often see “violated” in papers and presentations by food and meat scientists. 

Q: What is your biggest piece of advice to those building their career? 

A: 1. Get a solid science background – take those basic science courses seriously.  2.  Recognize that success whether academic, industrial or other will require many of the soft skills.  And 3. Think about what it means to be a scientist, e.g., the ethical issues, the need for scientific modesty, the respect for what analytical tools do and do not measure and how to handle and report the resulting data, and the role of collaboration versus competition in science. 

Q: Who has been the most influential person in your career? 

A: Dr. John Sherbon, my M.S. and a wonderful dairy chemist, who brought me into his laboratory, mentored me for my last year as an undergraduate and took me on as an M.S. candidate with an unusual background as a city boy (with some poultry and dairy background). He helped me obtain the background I needed to succeed as a dairy chemist and worked closely with me on my thesis research.  After returning to Cornell, which he helped make happen, he continued to mentor me throughout his life time as we became faculty colleagues. He and his family also became dear family friends. 

Q: What are your current hobbies? 

A: Although I started out as a stamp collector, I moved on to collecting picture post cards (deltiology, the Greek for small tablets), particularly those that show the sights around the world.  I now have over 50,000 cards logically organized by location.  I have used these cards to encourage international visitors to talk about their home country, and I did some K-12 teaching using the post cards years ago. (I am happy to provide a home for any spare post cards needing a proper home with or without messages on them.) This hobby is probably responsible for my travel bug. We have always been walkers/hikers and we try to do two walks every day and do lots of walking when we travel. 

Q: What do you miss most since you have retired? 

A: I am happy to report that I am failing retirement.  I continue to teach my kosher/halal course at Kansas State asynchronously and give numerous guest lectures in person at Cornell.  I have been doing “Zoom” lectures around the world on topics such as “Why I Love Factory Farming,” GMOs, various kosher/halal topics and “Why Amino Acid Analysis is a House of Cards.”  The Cornell Kosher and Halal Food Initiative’s extension/outreach activities continue and have brought me into the world of “beef” – working on a large kosher/halal slaughterhouse in Wyoming and doing ultrasound on live steers to determine if they should or should not go to kosher slaughter.   And I continue to work with former students, visitors and colleagues on manuscripts (often focusing on the Methods section – which I consider the real heart of a manuscript) following an eight year stint launching China’s first English language peer-reviewed food science journal, Food Bioscience, as its co-editor-in-chief, where I did multiple edits on all accepted manuscripts.  I wrote an extensive guidance document for authors that goes beyond the normal instructions in most journals; I am particularly proud of it (and happy to share, noting that I have not updated it in quite a while). One of my most popular talks is “Publishing a Peer Reviewed Paper.”  

Q: What is your favorite food(s)?  

A; My fish background comes out on this one. My favorite foods are: #1. Whitefish Salad and #2 Herring in Cream Sauce.  

Q: If you could plan a vacation to anywhere in the world, where would you go? 

A: We have been fortunate to travel extensively to interesting and sometimes out-of-the-way places around the world, particularly Latin America and Asia.  But we’ve only been to Africa once (Kenya) and would love to see more of that fascinating continent. 

Thanks for the opportunity to share some of my history and thoughts.  Shalom/Salaam/Pax.