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As an ISP Fellow Hannah Price is conducting a workflow measurement project with the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Meat and Poultry Inspection Division, investigating how meat poultry inspection is currently being done to see if there are ways to make the process more efficient, including through online technologies. The goal is that this information will help enhance the scheduling system and identify regions within the state where there might be a higher demand for more inspectors.

Hannah is also working with an Extension Educator, Teresa Steckler, from the Commercial Agriculture Team to research ways to enhance the health, welfare, and sustainability of beef production by identifying cost effective strategies to control anaplasmosis. Anaplasmosis is a disease caused by a parasite that infects the red blood cells and causes anemia in cattle.

I caught up with Hannah so she could share her story in her own words:

Why did you apply for the Illini Science Policy Program?

I applied for the Illini Science Policy Program because I am a firm believer in public service and doing things for the greater good of communities and others. Specifically, I applied for the program with the understanding that I would be working with the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Meat and Poultry Inspection Division on a project to help enhance the inspection system throughout the state. With a background in meat science, this intrigued me because I am passionate about being part of an industry that provides a safe, high quality product for all consumers.

Tell us a bit about what you hope to do as a result of being a fellow?

I hope to be able to successfully complete the projects that I have been assigned and to make a difference within the Meat and Poultry Inspection division. I hope that my previous knowledge in meat science and experience gained from this fellowship will allow me to highlight key areas within the inspection system to continue to increase efficiency and allow the IDOA to better understand the needs of inspectors in order to continue to complete their job in an efficient and thorough way.  

Describe how you and your host determined what project(s) you would work on?

My host had previously identified the need for this project ahead of me starting my fellowship. This project idea was based on the need of better understanding how inspectors spend their day and what regions throughout the state may need more or less inspectors based on demand. The idea was presented to me and then my host and I have worked together to develop the project and the steps needed to collect the information needed.

What is one thing you learned from your host mentor so far?

I have learned a great deal from my host mentor so far, Dr. O’Keefe. He has been extremely valuable in me gaining an understanding of Meat and Poultry Inspection and has provided me with all of the resources needed to learn the ins and outs of the regulations and policies that inspectors enforce within the various establishments they inspect.

Why is your issue important?

This issue is important because meat and poultry inspectors are an integral part of ensuring that establishments within the state of Illinois, and the meat industry as a whole, are continuing to provide a safe and high-quality product to consumers.

Who is impacted by the issue you are working on?

Directly, the inspectors and establishments within the state of Illinois. Indirectly, the industry as a whole because the findings from this project may be able to help other state departments improve their systems. Also, consumers- they are at the end of the chain but are the most important because they are the ones receiving the final products that are inspected.  

What is one thing you want people to know about this issue?

I want people to know that even though this project is directed towards enhancing the inspection system and finding ways to improve efficiency, the current system implemented is doing a sufficient job and meat and poultry products have been and will continue to be inspected thoroughly to ensure consumers are receiving a safe, high-quality product.

What have you learned from your Extension Mentor?

I have gotten to work with my extension mentor quite a bit so far. I am working on helping her wrap up a 2-year study looking at anaplasmosis in cattle and the economic impact it might have on cattle producers within the state of Illinois. I readily admit, this area is not in my wheelhouse, but it is exciting to be able to learn something new and I am thoroughly enjoying the experience. So far, I have learned how to draw blood from cattle and pregnancy check heifers and cows using an ultrasound machine while also learning more in depth about commercial cattle production. Not to mention, the amount of networking and introductions she has provided to different people within the industry has been more than I could have ever imagined.

What is the most unexpected thing about this program so far?

The amount of connections and networking I have been exposed to within the first couple months of my fellowship. From orientation and monthly meetings to farm and establishment visits within both of my projects, I have been able to interact with professionals within all realms of the extension and agricultural industry. I am a firm believer that making connections and networking is an integral key to your success in life and I am excited that this fellowship program is providing me with that opportunity.
 

If you could do one thing through this program and think, “Wow, I did that,” what would it be?

The one thing I hope to do is make a difference. I hope that my project within the Meat and Poultry Inspection division provides information and findings that could be of value to other state inspection divisions across the country. My hope is that this project has the potential to influence the inspection system in a positive way that opens the doors for continuous improvement in providing a safe, high quality product to consumers. In terms of my extension project, I hope to continue to grow as a researcher and to be able to contribute some of my meat science knowledge to the project.

More information about the Illini Science Policy Program is available here.  Keep reading to learn more about Hannah’s colleagues in the inaugural class of 2020 ISP Fellows.