Looking back ... with Robert Rust
In 1954, I launched my career in the meat industry when I accepted the newly created position of Extension Meat Specialist at Michigan State University. At that time, all information came from the print media and, to a limited extent, broadcast. It was still an era when there was a disconnect between academia and the meat industry, with the latter being a pretty tight-knit fraternity. In order to keep abreast of the meat-industry happenings, my best source was the then-weekly The National Provisioner. Not only did it provide the news but it also offered a weekly market summary — a must if you were following economic trends.
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In 1959, I moved to Iowa State to begin its extension program in Meat Science. One of my first acts was to acquire a subscription to the Provisioner. I also added the daily Yellow Sheet so our office would have the latest available market information.
Recognition of our meat science extension programs was still a little indefinite. One day, at one of the AMI annual meetings and trade shows in Chicago, my friend Frank Crabb, general manager of Farmbest (later Farmland) in Denison, Iowa, introduced me to Betty Stevens, editor of the Provisioner, and that introduction blossomed into a longstanding friendship. Stevens was a very matter-of-fact individual and not one to waste words. That was probably why she was so well accepted in the meat industry.
About the same time, I met Greg Pietraszek, a longtime reporter for the Provisioner, who was the last of a dying breed that still used a 4x5 Speed Graphic camera and flash bulbs. I have shot a lot of film with a Speed Graphic so I know what Pietraszek dealt with: Picture a camera almost the size of a shoebox, weighing several pounds, which fired flash bulbs the size of a 100-watt incandescent bulb. The gadget bag you lugged around was about the size of a legal carry-on bag. It used 4- by 5-inch cut film, two sheets per holder. Each holder that you had to insert in the camera was the size of today’s large cell phone! One picture per side, thank you. One thing for sure, Pietraszek could not sneak a picture of you without you knowing it.
I knew that I had broken into the meat industry fraternity when my picture appeared in the Provisioner. I will give a lot of credit to Stevens, Pietraszek and the Provisioner for helping gain early acceptance in the meat industry for the extension programs that I created. That includes the long-running meat processing short courses that still continue after almost 40 years.