As a Meat Science Graduate Student, there is one question I get over and over. What is Meat Science and what are you going to do with a degree like that? Where to start?
Technically the journal of Meat Science states that Meat science is the study of the qualities of meat – its composition, nutritional value, wholesomeness and consumer acceptability – which are largely determined by the events and conditions encountered by the embryo, the live animal and the postmortem musculature. The control of these qualities, and their further enhancement, are thus dependent on a fuller understanding of the commodity at all stages of its existence – from the initial conception, growth and development of the organism to the time of slaughter and to the ultimate processing, preparation, distribution, cooking and consumption of its meat.
As we break this down we find that meat science encompasses various aspects throughout the industry, including but not limited to reproduction, animal nutrition, anatomy and physiology livestock handling, proper harvesting techniques, and further processing of an end product. As a graduate student I’m able to experience research projects that touch on many of these aspects. Its amazing how much research is placed in a product before it reaches the consumers hands either through food service or retail. Research that is conducted may cover any of these above categories such as how nutrition effects the end product along with muscle color and shelf life stability. All of these traits hold immense value to the industry in the long run.
Now to address the next question, “What are you going to do with a meat science degree?” The way that I see it is that there will always be a job in the meat and food industries as long as there are people in the world that need to eat. There are MANY large companies that do nothing but process meat and food products. This is something that the everyday consumer looks beyond and doesn’t think about. In the meat industry there are many career opportunities such as Research and Development, Sales and Marketing, Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) coordinators, food safety inspectors, USDA graders, along with quality control and production managers. All of these positions play a crucial role in ensuring the industry provides a safe, quality and affordable product.