For decades, the Meats Laboratory at Iowa State University has been a leader in educating students and the meat industry. With a new leader now at the helm, the tradition and high standards are set to continue.
Joe Cordray, ISU Extension meat specialist for the last 25 years and a professor of animal science, had more than 50 years of professional involvement with Iowa State’s Meat Science program, dating back to his bachelor’s degree in 1971.
MEAT SHORT COURSES: “First and foremost, I wanted people to have a good educational experience. But my second priority was for them to have fun,” Joe Cordray says.
Cordray was especially known for workshops and short courses he helped coordinate, including 26 held last year. Some of the most popular courses offered each year include the Cured Meat Short Course (to be held Jan. 21-23), the Dry and Semi-Dry Sausage Short Course (April 14-16), Sausage and Processed Meats Short Course (July 13-17) and Basic Sausage Short Course (Nov. 10-12).
Cordray also held a wide variety of workshops for private industry, including Smithfield Foods, and workshops focused on regulatory compliance and quality control. His goal was to educate and inform, while providing participants an enjoyable experience.Passing torch
Cordray officially retired Jan. 3 but was able to spend the past couple months helping his successor, Terry Houser, make the transition. Houser, who earned his master’s degree in meat science at ISU in 2001, and his Ph.D. in 2004, is no stranger to the meat lab. The newly named ISU professor and Extension specialist in animal science previously held meat science positions at Kansas State University and the University of Florida.
“Dr. Cordray has been a mentor my entire career,” Houser says. “His mentorship has been invaluable to me in helping me get to where I am today.”
The meats laboratory at Iowa State is a model for the rest of the nation, Houser says, especially in processed meats. As other meat laboratories have declined in number and in faculty, he says the role of ISU’s meat lab will only become more important.
“It’s more important than ever that we get good information to our meat processors because we don’t have as many people doing this,” Houser says. “As we move forward, we’re going to have more and more opportunities to educate our industry.”
ISU Meats Laboratory
The Iowa State University Meats Lab is a federally inspected facility, with complete slaughtering and processing capabilities of all major livestock meats and poultry. Most of the animals processed are from the university’s own farms, and are harvested for teaching, research and Extension purposes.
HIGH STANDING: “Iowa State has a national and international reputation for quality meat programming,” Terry Houser notes. “This is the place when it comes to Meat Science Extension; no one else does it at this level.”
Houser says the short courses continue to be popular with national and international participants. The ISU Meats Lab also helps with the Iowa Meat Processors Convention, to be held Feb. 13-16 at Gateway Hotel and Conference Center in Ames.The lab supports modern meat technology and product development, and is equipped with processing equipment for cutting, packing, freezing, stuffing, curing, slicing and cooking. The meats laboratory also operates its own retail meat store, located in Kildee Hall, on Wednesdays and Fridays, and orders can be placed online.
Even though Cordray is stepping down, he anticipates still being involved with ISU, the American Association of Meat Processors and the Iowa Meat Processors Association.
Cordray says a strong meat processing industry is important to all of Iowa, including livestock and crop farmers and, of course, consumers. “We are a livestock-producing state and we have a lot of meat-related activities taking place in Iowa,” he adds. “This facility helps train people who want to work in those industries.”