What is “Meat Science”?


By Christopher R. Raines

I recently attended the 2009 Reciprocal Meat Conference, an annual professional meeting geared toward the interests of all those — academics and businesspeople — who are tied to the meat trade.  This event is hosted by the American Meat Science Association and its members.  Attending the event made me realize just how incredibly far-reaching the meat business is. It made me think about how, when I tell someone I’m a meat scientist,  99% of the time the response is:  “Oh, you’re a meat inspector.”  Well, in that I deal with some of the regulatory aspects of meat products, I suppose I interact with meat inspectors.  But there’s a whole host of other topics to mention…

The standards and rules enforced by meat inspectors have been derived from science-based research.  Those can be food safety, animal well-being, trade policies, and the list goes on.  Meat Science also involves why muscle foods (i.e. meat products) are formulated the way they are, why one degree of doneness is safer than another, why meat is packaged the way it is, how meat is cut, why meat is the color it is, how muscles grow, how animals are slaughtered . . . basically the entire meat production process.  Meat Science is evolving to include efficiency and sustainability of production and environmental impact.  Meat Science also reaches human nutrition and consumer food values.  It’s a very broad field, way beyond the scope of just the inspector.  It ties feed to water to animals to farms to processors to bacteria to myoglobin to consumers to the safety to human health to packaging to biotechnology to environmental impact to animal genetics to transportation . . . well, you get the idea.