“The main reason I got involved in the meat industry is because of its connection with agriculture,” she says. “It’s fascinating to me that there’s so much going on at a meat facility, and there are so many variables that affect the end product.”
Her desire to focus on agriculture led her to the Univ. of Wyoming to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in animal and veterinary sciences with a meat science and food technology focus. Like many animal science majors, she got involved in meat judging during the undergrad years, which increased her interest in the meat side of the agriculture business. “After visiting a plant and actually seeing it all in action, seeing all the aspects of a meat operation, I really decided I wanted to work in the meat industry,” she says.
Piper continued learning more about the many facets of the meat industry by working as an intern in the meat lab at the university, as well as working at the Wyoming Dept. of Agriculture with its consumer health services. Following graduation in 2006, she moved on to the pursuit of her animal science Master’s Degree at Texas Tech Univ., with the intention of finding a career in the meat indus-try. “I picked Texas Tech because I knew their meat science program included a lot of hands-on research,” she says. “I got a lot of valuable research experience both on the food science side as well as with food microbes, which prepared me for what I’m doing today.”
Prior to her December 2008 graduation from the master’s program, Piper had interned at the American Meat Institute, working with technical services on their food safety/QA team. This internship helped her gain the experience and industry connections she needed to be hired by JBS as a microbiology and laboratory services manager in August 2008.
Happy in her role
A primary responsibility of her job is coordinating between third-party laboratories and the company’s meat facilities. After all the data is returned, there’s a lot of analysis of the data, trending and program writing to be done. In addition, her department develops a number of SOPs which Piper develops training programs for. “I’ve been very fortunate in the fact that my job involves both meat science and food safety,” she says. “I’m doing exactly what I studied to do and exactly what I wanted to do.”
A personal accomplishment for Piper during her tenure at JBS is the training she coordinates at the different facilities, including ground beef sampling procedures for O157 and training people on different lab techniques. “We work hard to get our programs consistent at each of our plants,” she says. “We all have a common goal of making sure that our facilities do their best to produce safe products. It’s a great accomplishment to be able to help meet that goal.”
Piper’s career goals involve continuing to utilize her education and experience in her day-to-day work as a part of the meat industry. “I want to continue to make food safety and human safety a priority,” she adds. “I’d like to continue to learn about all the different departments and areas at JBS to truly understand how they all work together so I can really contribute to the process of keeping our meat safe.”