The Meat Sciences program in the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Illinois is a program broad in scope, but collaborative in nature. The program encompasses four professors, eight to 10 graduate students and a meat lab manager.
Faculty, researchers and students in the program engage in basic and applied research as well as extension and outreach to state, national, and international components of the meat industry. From a research prospective, researchers are interested in the whole of meat science and muscle biology spanning from the regulation of animal growth and development, technologies to improve animal production and efficiency, carcass yield and quality, and aspects of further processing. The four meat science and muscle biology professors each have their own interests and specialties but work together to address research questions.
There are seven courses in the program, covering the breadth of meat science and muscle biology for animal science majors and non-majors. Courses include topics of animal processing, carcass fabrication, further processing, meat animal evaluation, meat judging, growth and development, and muscle biology.
The program’s facilities house a USDA-inspected slaughter and processing facility, including a successful meat sales operation that is open three days a week to the community. A student-led Meat Science Club allows both graduate and undergraduate students to interact with professionals in the industry through tours, conferences and outreach.
One key component of the U of I Meat Science program and the courses offered is the opportunity it gives students to gain hands-on experience while they learn. This experience helps them develop skills that are useful to the industry and makes them marketable when they seek employment.
University of Illinois,
Meat Science and Muscle Biology program in the Department of Animal Science
Faculty: Floyd McKeith, Anna Dilger, Dustin Boler, and Jan Novakofski
Research conducted in the program is industry guided, directed by the aim to answer questions that may immediately impact the meat industry. Researchers are especially interested in technologies that enhance animal efficiency and their effect on carcass yield and quality, and the quality of raw materials for further processing.
Dr. Sean Homer, a U of I alum and director of research and development for Smithfield Foods said, “Being at the University of Illinois helped to prepare me for a career in the meat industry by exposing me to many of the meat industry contacts. With the contacts and relationships that the U of I meat science program had with the meat industry, I was able to secure an internship as an undergraduate that ultimately sparked my interest in the meat industry as a career. While going to graduate school and working on numerous research projects, I was able to personally build upon those industry relationships, which ultimately led to securing a job within the meat industry.”
Now a senior manager of product development for Hillshire Brands, alum Brenda Dismore said the problem solving involved in her job takes knowledge and creativity, skills she said she gained at the University of Illinois.
“I firmly believe my involvement in the meats, livestock and meat animal judging programs created a foundation for acquiring characteristics needed to be successful in my career,” she said. “I also benefited from the coursework and my interactions with faculty and graduate students in the meats laboratory. These individuals guided me through my college career and still mentor me today.”
University of Illinois is a member of the American Meat Science Association. For more information about the U of I and its faculty, please visit the AMSA website at http://www.meatscience.org/page.aspx?id=8990