A Day in the Life of Mom at the Meat Counter

by Janeal Yancey, Miss January 2016

There is no typical ‘day in the life’ of me. Every day is different and I can definitely say that few are ‘typical.’ Rather than share about one day in my life, I decided to share some of my favorite days from the past year. From that, you can get an idea of all the crazy things I do.

January 20 – Classes begin. My class, Livestock and Meat Evaluation, meets in the spring semester. We cover breeds of livestock, how to evaluate carcasses, meat pricing, and a little about animal growth. I love to teach and work with the students, but it is quite a challenge. Most students have never been exposed to information about meats and can be reluctant to learn something new. Usually by the end of the semester, I have several new faces inspired to learn about meat.

AWB 3 Teaching

January 31 – Academic Quadrathlon. Four Animal Science students traveled with me to Georgia to compete in a Regional Competition. In addition to showing off their skills as animal scientists, these kids have the chance to travel to a new part of the US to learn about agriculture and food production. This competition covers much more than just meat science, so I learn as much as the students do. Although it was a quick trip, we took a tour of the University of Georgia’s campus and got to enjoy some of the local flavors in downtown Atlanta. Traveling with students is one of my absolute favorite parts of my job. 

AWB 3 AQ collage

March 7 – Missouri Meat Processors Product Show. I was invited to serve as an expert judge at a processed meat show in Missouri. I judged bone-in hams and bratwurst. These products come from meat processors all over the state of Missouri. Making cured and processed meats is a craft and an art form as much as it is a science. It was quite a learning experience for me. Of course, I took a #hamselfie!

AWB 3 contest

March 31. Undergraduate Research. We mixed and formed beef patties for a young lady’s senior research project. Those patties were later cooked, and the internal cooked color was measured. Our research reiterated the fact that cooked color is not a good indicator of doneness and that meat thermometers are the best way to tell if ground beef is really done. I really enjoy doing research with students. This young lady found a passion for lab work and is considering a job in the meat industry thanks to this experience. 

AWB 3 research

April 1 – Hosting Mrs. Cavitt’s GT Class. I love to introduce kids to animal science. Most kids don’t see agriculture as interesting or think of it as a future career, so I like to bring kids as young as elementary school to our department and show them all the interesting things we do. We have a special cow that we use for research named Hilda. She has become quite the Northwest Arkansas ambassador for cattle nutrition and animal science in general. In addition to education, Hilda helps us learn about how cows digest their food, what they prefer to eat, the impact they have on the environment, and the way medicines affect her digestion. Cows like Hilda can even help other cows when they are sick

AWB 3 Hilda

April 21 – Moms on the Farm Tour. Twice a year, we host a tour of local farms for people in our community that have little or no experience with agriculture. In April, we toured Susan Anglin’s Dairy Farm and the McGee Beef Farm with over 40 tourists. We introduce them to farmers, show them how food is produced right here in Northwest Arkansas, and answer any questions they may have. We pet baby calves, watch cows being milked from inside the parlor, walk in a beef cow pasture, and enjoy cooking demonstrations from the Arkansas Cattlewomen. Tours are held in April and October, if you’d like to join us, let me know!

AWB 3 Moms on the Farm

May 12 – Huntsville High Graduation. For the past 5 years, I have served on the School Board in our community, and this year, I was asked to hand out the diplomas as the students walk across stage. Most people know that I am a jeans person and generally don’t dress up for anything. But, for graduation, I found a dress and curled my hair because education is important. These students work hard for their diplomas, and I want to celebrate their accomplishments.

AWB 3 graduation

June 1. Working in the Meat Lab (Abattoir). This was just one of many days this year we were working in the abattoir. We process beef, pork, lamb, and goats. Working in the meat lab gives me a respect for people who work hard every day to produce the safe and inexpensive food we have in this country. My husband enjoys telling people that his wife is a better meat cutter than he is. When we work in the meat lab we have to wear protective gear like cut-proof gloves, hard hats, white coats, and steel-toed boots. I’ve had those old boots a while.

AWB 3 meat lab

June 10. Reciprocal Meats Conference. Absolutely one of my favorite weeks of the year. The American Meat Science Association hosts the RMC in different locations each year. A whole vanload of students accompanied me on a road trip to visit processing plants and other aspects of meat science along the way. Last year, we visited a sausage plant, a large beef plant, Anne Burkholder’s feed yard, the USDA Meat Animal Research Center, and a local grocery store where we took #meatcounterselfies. The RMC trip is the pinnacle of traveling with students for me. These are kids interested in meats going to a conference about meat science. The conference is like a big family reunion and a church revival because we collaborate with other meat scientists and get pumped up to go home to do exciting research. My husband was honored at this RMC as one of the AMSA Achievement Award winners for his outstanding contribution to the meats industry as a scientist at Tyson.


July 9. Ketchikan, Alaska. Even on vacation, I’m interested in meat and the food industry. This summer, our family took a trip to Alaska. Every chance I got, I found a grocery store and checked out the meat counter. At this stop in Ketchikan, we found a historic grocery store with a really neat story.

AWB 3 alaska

July 20. Washing sheep. I’m also a 4H mom. Vallie had three little sheep for a project this year. I showed sheep when I was young, but we still have a lot to learn. Some of my best days are spent helping with the washing, shearing, and teaching the sheep to show. Showing animals in 4H is really about family time and kids learning to work hard toward a goal. 

AWB 3 lambs

August 28. Arkansas Women Bloggers Conference. If you are blogging and you are not attending a conference like this one, you are missing out. These ladies are so much fun, and I learn so much about writing, editing, photography, web design, new apps, and anything else associated with blogging and social media. But, I go for the fun! Where else can you work together with 5 grown women to make a guitar out of wrapping paper?


September 28. Hotdog Lab. Most of our students know very little about meat. In their introductory Animal Science class, they have the chance to tour all of the facilities in our department, including the meat lab. The meat lab manager and I give them a quick tour and talk about all the things we do, then we take them into the 45° processing room and let them make some hotdogs. We start with ground meat, mix it with spices, stuff it into casings, and twist it into hotdogs. After class, it’s smoked, cooked and packaged for the students to enjoy the next week in class. This year, making hotdogs even made it on the University of Arkansas snapchat. 

AWB 3 saugage


November 16. Operation Christmas Child Collection Week. Our family started putting together shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child 6 years ago. OCC collects shoebox gifts to share with children in need worldwide. Gathering things for our boxes is a year-round activity, and we spend a week in November collecting boxes from our church and community to send to OCC. For the past two years, Ed and I have traveled to Dallas to help process boxes for distribution. The OCC boxes are a great way to teach young children the joy of sharing with those in need. 



Sometimes I feel like I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off. I didn’t include all the boring days, working in my office on statistics or writing research papers and blog posts, grading papers and exams, or preparing for all these exciting days.  Whether it’s my own kids, my students, other moms, or children in developing countries, whatever I’m doing, I try to help people. I want to help them learn more about agriculture and to improve their lives. And, I take a lot of selfies.  


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