Earlier this month, I traveled to Ames, Iowa, to attend the retirement of Dr. Joe Cordray from Iowa State University. The dinner was attended by people from across the meat industry: processors, suppliers, educators and more. While the dinner gave much-deserved praise to one man, it also served to show the importance that a meat science department can have, not just for the school and the surrounding community but also the meat industry as a whole.

The meat industry, like any industry, depends on the continual addition of new labor. Some of those new workers can come off the streets for an available position and be trained in a specific series of tasks they are needed to perform. Those new workers can receive on-the-job training for butchering, deboning, packaging or transportation of raw materials. However, the long-term health of the industry depends on higher education. It depends on meat science departments working on improving the quality of meat products, answering questions for processors and offering educational opportunities for those in the industry. It depends on them training students who will be entering the industry. It depends on them expanding the knowledge base of the industry as a whole.

Meat science departments and animal science departments in public universities tend to not be profit centers, as opposed to college athletics. These departments and their faculty are not going to be as well-funded as a football and basketball team would be. The industry has to remain engaged with those programs, helping to provide funding, expertise and scholarships. The benefit will come with knowledgeable employees, beakthrough research and new product innovations.