While 2020 looked different for the meat science program at UF, the limitations of the year also led to a creative twist on an intercollegiate contest and a new industry-oriented class.
The American Meat Science Association (AMSA) Reciprocal Meat Conference was virtual in 2020, which meant the organization had to rethink how the annual Iron Chef contest could be delivered. AMSA decided with the growing popularity of meal kits during quarantine, the Iron Chef competition would have students create meal kit boxes. Participating UF students, under the instruction of Kylie Philipps, a graduate student in ANS, worked throughout the fall to create a unique meal kit that could be shipped back to the judges for evaluation.
ASMA connected the students with food scientists at Tyson Foods, Inc. to serve as mentors. The scientists worked with Phillips and the team throughout the product development process. The UF Iron chef team narrowed down their meal idea to a Bibimbap, a traditional Korean dish, using Brahman hump meat as their protein. In January, the students shipped their meal kit to Tyson for evaluation, and their hard work paid off. The UF team won the Iron Chef competition for their creativity, clear execution, and quality of their product.
Philipps began thinking about ways to further incorporate product development instruction into course content. The recent retirement of the meats processing instructor posed both a problem and a solution for her idea. She reached out to one of the Tyson food scientists who mentored the team through the contest, Bo Hutto, about the possibility of developing a Processed Products Evaluation course.
“I didn’t expect Tyson to want to be involved with that, I just reached out to Bo to see if he thought the way I designed the course would be relevant to the industry,” Philipps said. “But he said Tyson would be really interested to be a part of this, and they ended up providing mentorship through the course as well as product for the students to work with.”
The food scientists from Tyson gave lectures on Tuesdays and on Thursdays, the students worked with the donated product in a coordinated lab. According to Philipps, Tyson sent roughly 100lbs of beef trim to make hotdogs, close to 50lbs of chicken, and all of the breading and batter to make chicken tenders, 40lbs of beef inside rounds to make roast beef, and 30-45lbs of boneless hams to smoke and inject and tumble. The student’s final project was a true product development scenario and a cost analysis of the final products.
“If you’re a food scientist, you don’t just create whatever you want in a vacuum,” Philipps said. “You have a client who has a request. The scenario we gave the class was that they had to develop a convenience food with high protein that was specifically marketed towards health-conscious millennials.”
The students created a chorizo egg bite, chorizo flavored snack stick, and a restructured ham product. They had to make their product twice. The first attempted allowed students to test their process. The final product from the second attempt was shipped to Tyson for official review by food scientists. Philipps hopes if this course is offered in the future, the instructor will continue to engage directly with the industry to create a meaningful, hands-on experience for the students.
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