Tyson Foods, Inc., hosted the first annual Beyond Fresh Meat short course in Springdale, Arkansas, February 3-5, 2017. This course offered a unique opportunity for both undergraduate and graduate students to learn about product formulation, research and development, and sensory evaluation. Meat Science grad students Courtney Boykin, Drew Cassens, Wade Hanson, Hillary Martinez, Spencer Tindel, and Kayley Wall participated in the short course.
Friday afternoon began with a welcome reception for participants that was followed by discussions about raw materials, functional ingredients, and batter and breading systems. Saturday morning started by talking about flavor and different ingredients that can be used. Participants were separated into teams and began rotations through different stations. The stations covered topics such as injection, margination, carcass utilization, batter, breading and par frying systems, formed products, and sensory techniques. At each station, participants heard from an expert in that field, watched and participated in a demonstration, and had the opportunity to ask questions. These demonstrations provided a rare, hands-on opportunity to understand common industry practice and the methodology behind them.
Saturday evening saw students divided into new groups, each with a local restaurant to visit, try, and evaluate. A wide variety of restaurants were represented, such as Mediterranean, an Irish Pub, and several identifying as Farm to Fork and locally sourced. The objective of the exercise was to focus on consumer trends, up and coming foods, and escape the comfort zone as a consumer. Dishes such as beef tartare, rack of lamb, buffalo fried chicken livers, and ahi tuna were sampled. After eating an adventurous dinner, participants relocated to a local food truck park to compare dishes and atmosphere. Food truck fare consisted of items such as a lamb burger, pizza, crepes, wontons, and safe-to-eat cookie dough.
Sunday morning opened with a conversation about food safety and quality assurance, followed by a recap from each team about their culinary experience from the previous night. The products produced on Saturday were evaluated using the recently discussed sensory techniques. The course concluded with a question and answer panel with the host committee where students gained insight for a career in the food industry, how to prepare for an interview, and the positives and negatives of product development.
Overall, the course exposed participants to a variety of new information, had a unique hands-on experience, and offered a valuable industry perspective. Thanks to Tyson Foods for offering such a great opportunity for students to participate in this activity.