Some of the meat & poultry industry’s biggest movers and shakers gathered in Atlanta, Ga., to celebrate the latest inductees to the Meat Industry Hall of Fame. The Class of 2019 was honored at a dinner on January 27, 2020.

The ceremony’s keynote address was delivered by Mel Coleman Jr., who talked about “Changing the Definition of Success.” Coleman, of Coleman Natural Foods, was pinch-hitting for Jeff Tripician, president of Perdue Premium Meat Co., who was unable to attend due to illness.

For more photos of the event, visit: Photos courtesy of

The Class of 2019 includes:

Morris F. Burger, Chairman of the Board/President, Burgers’ Smokehouse
Morris F. Burger led Burgers’ Smokehouse for more than40 years, during which time he worked with family and others to build a nationally recognized business with an impeccable reputation. Their accomplishments continue to have profound influence decades later.

He perfected a process to cure country ham using environmentally controlled rooms and created diversified product lines and sales channels. He traveled to Turkmenistan to teach modern meat-processing practices through a program sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development. Morris also received AAMP’s Achievement Award for Leadership and Service for his accomplishments in the industry.

He successfully transitioned the family business to the 3rd generation in 2000, but remains active in the business and community to this day.


Chris Calkins, Professor of Animal Science, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Dr. Chris Calkins, Professor of Animal Science at the University of Nebraska, is a world-renowned meat scientist who specializes in meat quality. He’s been a major professor to more than 50 graduate students who have excelled in academia, industry and government.

Dr. Calkins co-led the muscle profiling research that identified the Flat Iron steak and other value cuts with an annual U.S. impact of $1.5 billion. He is widely published and holds five patents. A former president of the American Meat Science Association (AMSA), Dr. Calkins has given numerous invited presentations in North America, South America, Europe and Asia.


Kerri B. Gehring, Professor, Presidential Impact Fellow, Texas A&M University; President/CEO International HACCP Alliance
Dr. Kerri B. Gehring is a professor of meat science in the Department of Animal Science and serves as president/CEO of the International HACCP Alliance. She has been actively involved with the HACCP Alliance since it was formed in March 1994, and has contributed to the growth and accomplishments of the Alliance.

Dr. Gering has impacted thousands of people by teaching HACCP/food safety courses and has disseminated food safety information across the world by serving on multiple professional and educational panels and programs. Her food safety research has focused on various post-harvest antimicrobial interventions to reduce and presence of pathogenic microorganisms, such as E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella, on the surface of meat products. Additionally, data from collaborative research efforts on the nutrient composition of beef have been used to update USDA’s National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. Dr. Gehring’s efforts and dedication to food safety and the meat industry are recognized on a national and international basis.


John Harris, Chairman/Owner, Harris Ranch
Harris Farms Inc. was founded in 1937 by John’s parents, Jack and Teresa. John Harris graduated from the University of California-Davis in 1965 with a degree in Agricultural Production, and when his father passed away in 1981, he continued to grow the diversified agricultural business. He expanded and revitalized beef processing and the sales force and expanded the feedyard.

Under John’s leadership, Harris Ranch has pioneered several innovations, including creating one of the first branded beef programs in 1982, more closely focusing on uniform cattle on feed; launching a line of fresh and frozen ground beef products in 1995, and pioneering the development of heat-and-serve beef entrees in 2000.

Harris Farms and its beef operations were sold to Central Valley Meat Co. in April 2019, but Harris continues in livestock ventures today. Harris is proud to be an advocate for cattle ranching and beef production, hosting many industry and educational groups at his ranches, and he stresses that beef is a wonderful nutritious product that can also benefit the environment.


Robert Rebholtz Jr., President/CEO, Agri-Beef
Robert Rebholtz Jr. is the President and CEO of Agri Beef, headquartered in Boise, Idaho. He manages and directs the strategic vision for the company that his father founded.

As the company grew into a major beef slaughter and fabrication operation – with its processing facility in Toppenish, Wash. – Rebholtz has ensured that the company maintain the highest standards for livestock and meat processing and command respect in the Pacific Northwest, where it is based. In addition, Rebholtz has served on the Board of Directors and as President of the National Meat Association, and has been Chair of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s Long Range Planning Committee.


R. Bruce Tompkin, VP Product Safety (retired), ConAgra Refrigerated Prepared Foods
Dr. Tompkin received his Ph.D. in microbiology from Ohio State University and started working in the industry with Swift & Co. in 1964. He became Chief Microbiologist in 1966, and then VP Product Safety for ConAgra Refrigerated Foods in 1993. He and his colleagues investigated how to control pathogens in a wide variety of foods and food-processing environments, new processing technologies, the use of additives to improve food safety, and the role of nitrite for controlling Clostridium botulinum.

In 1987, his focus shifted toward developing and managing a Listeria control program as the company grew to more than 200 packaging lines for ready-to-eat (RTE) meat and poultry products in more than 25 plants. Dr. Tompkin retired from ConAgra in 2002, but he continued to assist others as a consultant for more than 10 years.

Throughout his career, he shared best practices for pathogen control with industry, government and academia, both nationally and internationally.


Nominations for the Class of 2020 will be open soon. Visit to nominate a mentor or colleague to be honored next year.