More than 850 students, scientists and industry professionals from 11 countries gathered June 18-21 at the American Meat Science Association (AMSA) Reciprocal Meat Conference (RMC) in College Station, Texas. During these four days, the conference theme, “Where history, science and tradition meat,” was evident for all in attendance.
A common theme highlighted from the keynote speakers and other presenters during the 70th year of the AMSA Reciprocal Meat Conference was the importance of sharing our histories with consumers. According to the U.S. Census, less than 2 percent of all Americans are involved in production agriculture. With more people becoming further removed from farms, it has created a challenge for agriculturists to communicate the science behind current technologies used in the industry today.
Debbie Lyons-Blythe — a mom, blogger and cattle rancher — shared her story along with tips for communicating to consumers during the “Consumer Messaging” workshop. When communicating with consumers, she said to be relatable as a parent, student, etc., as well as an agriculturalist. By creating a common bond between producer and consumer, we are better able to establish credibility. Transparency is also a key component to creating trust.
Janet Riley, senior vice president of public affairs for the North American Meat Institute, added a crisis management angle. There will be times of crisis in which credible, established relationships are essential to the future of the industry, she said, but added an important point.
“Don’t try to build relationships during a crisis,” Riley said. Even if you are not directly involved with crisis management, it is crucial as an employee for you to remain informed on possible crises and the proper protocol to combat the problem.
Probably the most identifiable portion of the conference for many attendees was the wealth of knowledge presented throughout. From concurrent to reciprocation sessions, scientific poster presentations and daily conversation, the current and future research of the industry was discussed.
Malinda Colwell, Ph.D., associate professor at Texas Tech University, presented her current research in relation to food security around the globe in the concurrent session, “Food Security: A Meat Science Story.”
Colwell conducted her research in Malawi, the third-poorest country in the world with people suffering from nutrient deficiency as well as other health and learning problems. In the study, Colwell and her team worked with The Grace Center, Circle of Hope International to start “The Goat Feeding Intervention” in which 22 women and children (ages 2 to 5) were served four ounces of goat meat five times a day for one year. Most Malawi people eat a dense form of boiled corn and grits, which has little nutrition. With the change in diet for these 22 women and children, some of the main findings were increased smiling, laughing and “pure interaction.” Because of the increased nutrition, people had energy to engage with people and maintain relationships, an important quality of Malawian people.
In the future, Colwell plans to continue this study with pregnant mothers and follow these families until the children are 5 years old.
With a theme including tradition, there was no better place to host this year’s conference than Texas A&M University, where tradition runs deep. Throughout the conference, attendees celebrated friendships, memories and successes at some of the most iconic places on Texas A&M’s campus.
The annual softball game and picnic was held at Blue Bell Park, where guests watched fellow AMSA members play ball, enjoyed great Texas barbecue and bid on T-shirts in the annual T-shirt auction. Nine universities designed T-shirts that were auctioned off for a total of $21,475.
This year’s proceeds were donated to the AMSA Chris Raines Mentor Recognition Fund. Raines was an assistant professor of meat science and technology in the Department of Dairy and Animal Science at Penn State University. In December 2011, Raines was killed in an automobile accident. He was an avid blogger and social media user communicating about the meat and agriculture industry.
Additionally, RMC’s tradition of fierce competition returned in 2017. Students participated in several contests, including the processed meats contest, Taste of RMC and quiz bowl.
The Iron Chef Competition, a unique contest sponsored by Smithfield Foods, Inc., took place at the Rosenthal Meat Center. Students were split into teams from various universities and given an hour to develop a recipe and ingredients list. Coulotte and hominy were the featured meat and side dish. Then, two students from each team were given a $100 gift card donated by H-E-B to buy needed ingredients.
Multiple World Champion Chuck Wagon competition winner Homer Robertson, from Granbury, Texas, taught students proper smoking and grilling techniques before the competition began.
After teams prepared their recipe, students presented to a panel of judges who scored them on presentation and taste. Following judging, RMC attendees were invited to taste team’s recipes and vote for the People’s Choice Award.
With all the excitement throughout the week, one of the most humbling experiences was to watch old friends reunite and see new friendships built. There is no doubt history, science and tradition met at the 2017 AMSA RMC conference in College Station. NP