By Victoria Pilger ’15
Betsy Booren earned a doctorate in food science and technology from Texas A&M in 2008 working under the direction of Dr. Rhonda Miller, professor in the Department of Animal Science. She immediately put her education to work in the meat industry specializing in food safety policy development and analysis.
Dr. Booren currently serves as Vice President of Scientific Affairs for the North American Meat Institute where she represents and provides informed analysis for the majority of the U.S. beef, pork, lamb, veal, and poultry packers and processors on a variety of issues including food safety, food defense, diet and health, nutrition, animal health, biotechnology, food quality, food processing, research priorities, new technologies and public health initiatives.
In addition, Dr. Booren was appointed in January to serve as President of the North American Meat Institute Foundation in Washington, D.C. In this role, Dr. Booren assists with the management of the NAMI Foundation Research Advisory Committee including developing industry research priorities in food safety and diet and health, managing committee review, and prioritization.
Dr. Booren currently sits on the USDA’s National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection. She is an active member of the International Association for Food Protection, the Institute of Food Technologists, the American Society for Nutrition and the American Meat Science Association, where she currently serves on the Board of Directors. Dr. Booren resides in Arlington, VA.
She earned a bachelor of science in food science from Michigan State University and a master of science in animal science from University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Here’s what she has to say about her time at Texas A&M and the advice she gives to current students:
How did your degree prepare you for your job?
During my time at TAMU, I made sure I took advantage of every opportunity offered to me. That included taking a diverse class load, i.e. food chemistry, food engineering, human nutrition, as well as being a TA for a variety of classes. I also helped with departmental extension activities that gave me great exposure to the industry. I was fortunate to attend many scientific meetings, which allowed me to create a network of contacts. These experiences allowed me to gain a greater depth of understanding of the myriad issues facing our industry.
What advice would you give to undergraduate students who aspire to work in the meat science industry?
Get to know your industry and all the issues it faces. If I asked you what is the No. 1 issue facing the meat and poultry industry in February 2015, what would you say? Food safety? Consumer trust? Biotechnology? BSE? I think you would be surprised to learn it is likely the closure of the West Coast ports. This crisis is costing the meat and poultry industry more than $40 million per week in lost sales and unexpected export charges. My point is working in the meat science industry is not just about animal science or food science or meat science. Our industry deals with immigration, international trade agreements, microbiology, human nutrition, marketing, economics, engineering, and animal health — among many other issues. Be aware of these issues, but more importantly recognize that our industry is diverse and needs good talent to help solve problems while ensuring meat and poultry products are affordable, safe and wholesome.
Also, learn how to be a better communicator. My job is representing the North American meat and poultry industry and in order to do my job effectively I have to communicate our industry needs. One of the most important skill sets I learned came from being a TA and being able to distill down scientific concepts so anyone can understand. I highly recommend students develop this skill. You may never teach formally in a class room but you will need this skill to talk to the interdisciplinary team you end up working with. Also, learn how to be comfortable talking to people, either in front of larger groups or one-on-one.
For more information regarding news from the Department of Animal Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Texas A&M University, contact Courtney Coufal at firstname.lastname@example.org or (979) 845-1542.