Midwest to Meat Science
Brianna Buseman took a chance on the University of Idaho.
Buseman grew up in Canistota, South Dakota on a fifth generation Angus cattle and sheep farm. After earning undergraduate degrees in animal science with a meat science emphasis and agricultural business from South Dakota State University, Buseman wasn’t sure where life would take her next.
When she decided to apply for graduate school she met U of I College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Assistant Professor Phil Bass.
“Before I reached out to Dr. Bass I had never considered moving to Idaho — and that was about six months before I moved here,” she said. “I came out here and I fell in love with it. U of I has a growing program and really good people, it was an opportunity to see a broader part of the ag industry than cattle, hogs, corn and soybeans.
“I was looking to branch out from South Dakota, but I like to tell people I just came out here for the meat and potatoes.”
CALS and the Department of Animal and Veterinary Science had what Buseman was looking for in a graduate program.
“What really appealed to me about the program here were the opportunities,” she said. “It’s a relatively small program, but it has a lot going for it. The people here sold me on it, two new faculty with industry experience and a lot of passion, it was clear they were providing students with an education, but also with opportunities.”
Advancing Meat Science
To fully understand meat science you have to have knowledge in livestock genetics, animal handling and nutrition — all elements that have an impact on the final product. Meat science appeals to Buseman because it involves every facet of animal science.
As an undergrad, Buseman had the opportunity to travel to China and go to a meat market. It was an opportunity that influenced her to further pursue meat science.
“It made me realize how advanced we are in the United States. Food safety, food security and sustainable agriculture are a big deal and in my mind, meat science ties it all together,” she said.
Buseman’s thesis involves looking at methods to improve meat tenderness, specifically through electrical stimulation of beef carcass. She is working with CALS Assistant Professor Michael Colle on the project.
“Tenderness is the most important palatability trait for consumers,” she said. “We’re looking at the influence of the electrical stimulus on the enzymes that influence tenderness and looking at methods to improve tenderness in beef to offer a more consistent product to consumers.
“It is known that aging often leads to tenderness, but packers can only hold a product for so long in terms of aging, so if we can find a way to activate those enzymes that lead to tenderness and get them working earlier on, that could lead to a quicker turn around for product while still offering consistency and improve tenderness.”
Buseman is hoping her research can help both meat packers and consumers by creating a better quality and more consistent product. Electrical stimulation is already used in the meat industry and offers a lot of good attributes for carcass quality.
“We’re trying to see how exactly it influences the enzyme levels and we’re hoping our findings offer packers a better idea of when it should be used, and how it should be used, for a better product,” she said. “If we can increase demand for beef, it will help drive up the value for producers and give the consumer the consistency they want out of the product.”
Buseman is also passionate about consumer outreach and how the meat industry influences the agricultural industry as a whole.
“The meat industry is so important because it’s what consumers see in the agricultural industry,” she said. “There’s not always a lot of good that people hear, it’s usually against the industry. I want to be someone that can relate to consumers and work for the consumer, while also bridging the gap from farm to fork.”
Growth and Opportunity
Buseman has had many opportunities for new experiences at U of I. She attended the Northwest Meat Processors Association Convention and was a chaperone for a meat judging contest in Chicago. She has also found friends in a team of graduate students that make U of I feel like a home away from home.
“We call it the meat science team because we are really a team, all of us,” she said. “It’s always fun and I always look forward to work.”
Even though Buseman has been at U of I only a short time, she still shares in the excitement of the proposed Agri Beef Meat Science and Innovation Center Honoring Ron Richard.
“I can’t emphasize enough the opportunities and growth that is coming to this program,” she said. “There are young professors that are so excited, and James Nasados is doing such an amazing job at the meat lab now with what he has, it’ll be exciting to see all that a new facility will offer.
“It doesn’t seem to matter where I go, whether it’s around Moscow or in Pullman, if I say I’m doing meat science, they say, ‘oh I love Vandal Brand Meats.’ It’s really good to see that the community supports the program and it’ll be good to have more outreach in the community.”
Buseman plans to defend her thesis and graduate in May 2020 and hopes to find her way back to the Midwest in an Extension or sales role.
“I never once thought I’d be in Idaho and this is where the Lord took me, so who knows where I’ll be next,” she said.
Article by Hannah Doumit, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
Photos by Peter Roise, University Communications and Marketing
Published in November 2019