For as long as there’s been an Independent Processor magazine, there has been a Cordray’s Corner. Dr. Joe Cordray, meat extension specialist at Iowa State University, has contributed an article to almost every issue of the magazine since the day we first went to press. While, thankfully, Dr. Cordray will remain a contributor to IP, he has announced his retirement from Iowa State after more than 50 years in the meat industry.
A large group of friends, colleagues, processors and former students gathered in Ames, Iowa, on Saturday, November 2, to honor Dr. Cordray with a dinner and reception. The master of ceremonies was Dr. Maynard Hogberg, Emeritus Professor and Chair of the Department of Animal Science at Iowa State. Throughout the night, guest speakers thanked Dr. Cordray for his service, told stories about his career, and tried to tell the same bad jokes that were frequently told at the Iowa State short courses that Dr. Cordray ran. Although no one can tell a bad joke quite as well as Dr. Cordray can.
As the speakers discussed his career, it became clear that Dr. Cordray has impacted virtually every aspect of the meat and poultry industry. His work with small processors should be well-known to the readers of this magazine. Dr. Cordray has worked closely with the American Association of Meat Processors for decades. He wrote the guidelines for the Cured Meats Hall of Fame and has inducted every member. He has been awarded numerous accolades by the association, including the Outstanding Service Award and the Achievement Award. As one of the technical advisors of the American Cured Meats Championship, he has helped oversee the largest national cured meats event in the country.
“I don’t know that we can ever quantify the number of people and small plants who have been affected by the work that Dr. Cordray has been a part of here at Iowa State. The impact on the industry is immeasurable,” said Chris Young, AAMP executive director.
Dr. Cordray’s educational efforts have impacted companies and people throughout the industry, up to the largest processors in North America. Many highly respected members of the supplier, processor and educational communities took one of his classes or attended one of his short courses. Iowa State’s newly appointed extension meat specialist, Dr. Terry Houser, received his M.S. and Ph.D. in Meat Science from Iowa State.
In his remarks, Dr. Cordray thanked the event’s attendees, especially his wife, Rebecca, and their family and recalled the events that started his career in the meat industry.
“I’m standing in front of you tonight because in 1965 I wanted to buy a motorcycle,” he told the audience. “I proposed that to me dad. My dad was not necessarily in favor of it, but he said, ‘You can do it, but you know who’s going to pay for it, and it’s not me.’”
To pay for the motorcycle, he got a job at a neighborhood grocery store in the meat department, which led to working at the Iowa State meat lab while he went to college. From there came stays at Auburn University and A.C. Legg before becoming part of the faculty at Iowa State in 1995.
“One of the high points of my career was in 2017 when I was inducted into the Meat Industry Hall of Fame,” he said.
In taking the time to recognize the evening’s attendees, Dr. Cordray highlighted the importance of making personal connections with people.
“No one is successful on their own,” he said. “It is only through interaction with others that we are eligible to achieve success.”