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Meat Business Women

September 4, 2019

People are increasingly thinking about women playing leading roles in the meat industry, which has traditionally been male dominated. Some of the progress being made can be attributed to a women’s organization that is gaining momentum in the industry. Originally launched in the U.K. in 2015, Meat Business Women has expanded throughout Europe and globally into New Zealand, and is building a support network to help new entrants and boost members of the group to become world leaders. By bringing new and experienced female talent together, this group is connecting women from around the industry for coaching, mentorship, growth and opportunity. OSI supports the mission and vision of Meat Business Women and understands the tremendous benefits of making the meat industry an attractive place for female talent, not just for OSI, but for the industry as a whole.


Its mission was especially clear at Meat Business Women’s sold-out event in May 2019, with more than 180 delegates in attendance, and with industry royalty and British royalty as keynote speakers. One such industry royal present was American Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University Dr.Temple Grandin. Dr. Grandin flew to London specifically to address those in attendance. She spoke about the different roles women play within the meat industry and how to address the challenges of those roles on a daily basis. She should know, as one of the top 100 most influential people in the world according to Time Magazine in 2010. Dr. Grandin also played a seminal role in outlining best practices for animal welfare in the industry in the 1990’s.


According to her website, almost half of the cattle in North America are handled in a center track restrainer system that Dr. Grandin designed for meat plants. In fact, she has designed facilities around the world, from North America, to Europe, to Australia and New Zealand. Dr. Grandin is also widely credited with developing practices to greatly reduce animal stress throughout the supply chain. She developed an objective scoring system for assessing cattle handling at meat plants, which has been implemented by major companies and organizations around the world.


Having Dr. Grandin speak at this conference shows the momentum this group of professionals is building and the kind of innovation and talent women have already brought to the meat industry. The group was also addressed by Her Royal Highness Anne, The Princess Royal, who delivered insights into animal production systems and the importance of groups, such as Meat Business Women, that inspire the future generation of female talent in the industry.


Bridging the gap between industry professionals and public figures was the United Kingdom’s Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss, who spoke about the future of the meat industry, particularly the opportunities and challenges the industry faces in the post-Brexit era. She also gave advice on how to operate effectively in a male-dominated arena.


A PROFESSIONAL NETWORKING GROUP FOR WOMEN WORKING IN THE MEAT INDUSTRY

Meat Business Women was founded by Laura Ryan and Pam Brook, both experts in the meat industry. Laura noticed that there is a small number of women working in the supply chain, although that number is growing. It was Ryan’s belief that the number of women working in the industry could grow even faster if there was an organization that showcased the opportunities present for women in the industry and encouraged more women to take the leap.


In a recent interview, Ryan spoke about the benefits companies reap from having a gender balance, such as better financial performance and better governance. To help achieve this, Meat Business Women is working and partnering with other like-minded organizations to build an organic pipeline to get women into more senior positions. Ryan believes this kind of succession planning would be more effective than “helicoptering” highly talented people into leadership positions.


Meat Business Women has been running events featuring keynote speakers to coach the attendees on transferable skills that women in the supply chain can apply to their daily roles and responsibilities. These keynote speakers have come from a wide range of backgrounds and professions, including sportswomen, journalists and adventurers. These women have brought with them great resilience and leadership skills to help the group learn about different challenges in various industries, including the meat industry.


Networking is also an important focus of Meat Business Women. Ryan and the team work to get people into a room to talk about the current key challenges and opportunities in the industry. Members of the group and other interested parties can also stay in touch through the Meat Business Women group on LinkedIn and its growing Facebook group.


Recently, they have set up a committee to drive Meat Business Women forward. This committee has female volunteers from across the industry, from food service to wholesale to poultry, to make the group more successful.


“It was really inspiring to be at the Meat Business Women conference and to hear from leaders, such as Dr. Temple Grandin, HRH The Princess Royal, and so many other amazing women,” said Andrea Munoz Ardila, Environmental Officer, OSI Group. “I am proud to have represented OSI at this event to show that we truly are a business that supports innovation and women empowerment in our industry.”

With all of the progress and momentum this organization has built, Meat Business Women believes there is much more that the group can accomplish by discovering more challenges for women in the industry and tackling them. One of these challenges is the huge gap in mentorship for women in the meat industry. The group will be making this priority a focus in their upcoming events by bringing together both new entrants and experienced women to learn, grow and work together.