From Teeth to T-Bones: Trailblazing a Path in the Meat Industry

In her first year at UF, 40 Gators Under 40 honoree Hannah Shetters enrolled in general chemistry, one of the many requirements for students interested in dentistry and other health professions. Like many other pre-professional students, Shetters found herself struggling to grasp some of the concepts. After a lecture on covalent bonding theories, Shetters had an epiphany: She did not want to spend the rest of her life looking at teeth.

Hannah Shetters, General Manager of Newport Las Vegas.

After investigating new career options and talking to her mom, Shetters found new excitement for the animal sciences program in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. The major had a safety and processing of meat and poultry specialization, all housed in the UF/IFAS Department of Animal Sciences. Shetters reached out to Professor Dwain Johnson to learn more. It only took a short meeting for her to know she had found the right major, and Shetters has never looked back. Now included in the food animal specialization, this animal sciences track has coursework focused on evaluating livestock, harvesting and food security.

“I knew pretty quickly [in my meeting with Dr. Johnson] that I would enjoy the major,” said Shetters. “I knew I was a very applied science learner, so hearing how the courses were structured solidified my decision to switch.”

One course, Careers in the Livestock Industry, required Shetters to shadow someone who had a job in which she was interested. She contacted a member of the land-based proteins quality assurance team at Darden Restaurants and spent a day shadowing her. During that experience, the senior vice president of Darden Restaurants brought Shetters to Buckhead Central Florida for a facility tour.

Buckhead Central Florida is one of the Buckhead Meat and Seafood locations in Florida. The company is a specialty meat processor and distribution facility, focusing on creating pre-portioned sized steaks and chops for various chain restaurants in Florida. For Shetters, this was the first time she had heard of such a facility.

“I had been to major packers and fabrication houses through the [animal sciences] judging teams, but I had not been to a portion control operation before. We talk a lot about retail in the program but there was not a lot of exposure to the food service side of the meat industry,” said Shetters.

Shetters with the Meat Animal Evaluation Team.

While on the tour, Shetters met Richard Lindsey, the regional president of Buckhead. This connection would be vital to her future, as Shetters later contacted him about possible internships. At the time she reached out, Buckhead did not have an internship program.

Shetters was surprised and thrilled when Lindsey agreed to host her for a summer internship before her senior year of college. She was invited back the next year for a second summer before beginning her master’s programs. Shetters’ success as an intern set the stage for dozens of future CALS students’ internships.

“[Buckhead] saw the return on having someone be able to focus on certain projects,” said Shetters. “There’s a high value to having a bright, critical thinker that’s not burdened by some of the day-to-day. They have continued to have interns because of it.”

After graduating with master’s degrees in animal sciences and agribusiness, Shetters landed a project manager position at Buckhead Central Florida. In this role, she coordinated and supervised the internship program that was created from her experience. Kylie Philipps, a 2019 and 2021 UF/IFAS Department of Animal Sciences graduate, was one of these interns.

“While I was completing my internship, I knew that I was lucky to work under Hannah’s leadership, but it becomes more apparent to me with each passing day as I develop my own career within the Sysco Specialty Meat Network,” said Philipps. “Hannah is a great leader of people, she teaches and develops talent exceptionally well, and is extremely driven to make a difference in our business.”

Shetters has continued to pave the way for hardworking individuals in the meats industry. She moved to the Buckhead South Florida location in 2021 to serve as the director of operations. This location specializes in seafood and during Shetters’ tenure was merging two companies into one. Shetters also oversaw the implementation of adding a beef processing facility to the operation.

“My transition to the South Florida team was one of the most critical steps in my career. I wanted to challenge myself and have leadership opportunities,” said Shetters. “The exposure to the seafood side of protein foods was key in getting the job I have now.”

Shetters and the 2012 UF Meat Judging Team.

Now, Shetters is the youngest and first female general manager of a Sysco Specialty Meat Company. Located at the Newport Meat and Seafood Las Vegas facility, she oversees more than 60 employees in all aspects of the plant’s daily operations. The location specializes in novelty brands and portion control for food service across the country, distributing more than 50,000 pounds of product each week.

Looking toward the future, Shetters plans to continue challenging herself to learn more about the specialty protein side of food service. Shetters’ graduate advisor and animal sciences professor Chad Carr envisions a bright future for her and the meat industry.

“Hannah is one of the most remarkable and motivated students I have ever had,” said Carr. “We are just beginning to see her impact on the industry, and I am confident she will continue to excel as a mover and shaker.”


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Posted: March 28, 2024

Category: Agribusiness, UF/IFAS Teaching
Tags: Animal Sciences, CALS Alumni, Food And Resource Economics, Meat Science

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