Oklahoma State University
Oklahoma State University Robert M. Kerr Food And Agricultural Products Center
A sophomore from Indiana has found her place in the campus abattoir.
Jennifer Apple is working toward a meat sciences degree at Oklahoma State University and gets hands-on experience in the meat labs in the Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center.
Apple said her favorite job is working in the abattoir — slaughter facility — in FAPC.
“We kill, we clean, we fabricate, we package,” she said. “Whatever they tell us that needs to be done. It’s a really friendly environment. I love everyone who works here.”
Apple was familiar with agriculture and meat sciences from a young age.
“I grew up on a grain and sheep farm,” she said. “We raised Dorset breeding ewes and we still grow corn and soybeans. I was in FFA in high school and I started judging meats in seventh grade.”
Working in meat judging sparked something in her, she said.
“Meat judging was just kind of a passion for me,” she said. “I liked being in the coolers. I just knew I wanted to go into the meat science industry.”
That passion brought her to Stillwater after high school.
“I fell in love with the meat lab and the meat judging program (at OSU),” she said.
Apple said eventually she would like to carry on the family tradition of farming, but she is also toying with the idea of opening her own processing facility.
Apple works with several other students in the abattoir learning lab, where they harvest and process livestock, including animals that end up in the meat case at 1907 Meat Co.
Cattle or hogs are first harvested humanely and quickly before the students begin draining blood, skinning hides or scalding off hair, and removing organs and fat. Carcasses are attached to a rail line and move from station to station around the slaughter floor before they come to Apple.
She handles a band saw that’s almost as big as she is. Utilizing a counterweight and rising platform, Apple carefully splits the carcass down the middle.
“My favorite job is being on the kill floor,” she said. “I’ve done everything, but it’s neat (to split) because everyone else is over on that side and I’m over here doing the splitting.”
After splitting the carcass, Apple runs it through a sanitizing station, logs it into the system and pushes it down the rail into the cooler.
Kyle Flynn, the meat pilot plant manager at FAPC, said Apple is one of their best splitters.
Splitting is a job that requires a lot of finesse, Flynn said.
“We knew she could do it once we showed her how,” he said. “She has great attention to detail and understands the importance of a quality job. She is quality-minded.”
Apple has an internship with a large animal processor this summer, and she said slaughter facilities aren’t new to her.
“I remember my first day working at FAPC and they sent me out on the kill floor,” she said. “I came back the next week and they were all surprised.
“Sometimes, you get doubted because you’re a woman, but I know what I know and I’m in all the same classes with everybody else, and I know my stuff and I’m confident in my ability to succeed in the meat sciences industry. If you’re confident, other people will perceive you as confident.”