Janeal Yancey, meat scientist at the University of Arkansas, is one of the voices of Meat Matters, a new column, in Farm Journal’s PORK. She shares her thoughts on competition and community, her passion for educating consumers and what she hopes to accomplish in her column in 2019.
Q. Tell us about your background.
A. I grew up in rural Texas and was a regular kid in 4-H and FFA. We showed barrows at our county show and several of the major shows around Texas. I became interested in meats through the FFA judging team and went to Texas Tech to earn a bachelor’s degree in animal science and compete on the meat judging team. From there, I went to Kansas State University to coach the meat judging team and earned a master’s degree and Ph. D. I have been at the University of Arkansas since 2005. I started my Mom at the Meat Counter blog in 2011.
Q. What’s a typical day on the job like for you?
A. I don’t have a “typical day.” Some days I’m in the lab or the meat lab working on a research project. Other days I’m at my computer, writing or preparing data. I teach Livestock and Meat Evaluation in the Spring, so my office may be full of students with questions or preparing for an exam. I also enjoy helping with field trips to the Animal Science Department, so I might be out at the abattoir teaching 3rd graders how to make sausage or at the farm with the cannulated cow explaining rumen digestion to a group of 9th graders. I’m also the advisor for the Block and Bridle Club, the Meats Quiz Bowl Team, and the Academic Quadrathlon. So some days, I’m not on campus at all. I’m out with students on tours of farms or meat plants, going to conferences or contests.
Q. What do you enjoy most about your job?
A. I love working with people and teaching them new things about agriculture. It may be consumers on my blog or on a farm tour, students in class or on a field trip, or graduate students in the lab. I love to see the looks on peoples’ faces when they learn something new about how their food is produced.
Q. What can PORK readers expect out of your columns this year?
I try to think about things from a consumer’s perspective. Pork producers are consumers, too, and I know they have their own questions about what happens to their pork once it leaves the farms. I love to answer questions from consumers, and I hope that my columns help answer some for your readers.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I’ve ever received is to value community over competition. It doesn’t matter what you are doing – blogging, farming, teaching, research, showing, judging, or whatever – valuing the community over the competition is really important. In so many things, we can get so tied up in the competition, but if we have the right goals in mind, the community is the most important thing.
In the blogging groups in Arkansas and in agriculture, we have a real sense of community and I really think that’s what has helped me to get comfortable in my shoes when I’m communicating with consumers. Having a community of people that I can rely on has always been very important to me.
Q. When you aren’t at work, what do you enjoy doing for fun?
I have two daughters that are heavily involved in 4-H, sports and church. Most of my free time is devoted to getting kids to meetings, events and practices and raising sheep and cattle for fair season. I slow down for the occasional college football game in the Fall. Go HOGS!