What do you do if you love to eat and you have a thing for science? If you ask Rachel Smith from Lawrence County, the answer is easy: you starting working in the food industry.
“I love to eat and I love food science, so getting to combine the two every day is pretty awesome,” Rachel said. “It is also really neat to see products that I developed on store shelves. It makes me want to randomly drop them into people’s carts!”
In her current role as a food scientist with Ameriqual Foods, Rachel works on product development of new food products, ranging from soups and sauces to pureed baby foods.
“Typically, I start with a target gold standard product to match which could be a homemade recipe or a competitor’s item already in the market,” Rachel said. “I then determine what ingredients to use and develop a formula, or recipe, to make that item. I start by making a small batch and make tweaks based on what flavor, texture, appearance, etc., the customer is looking for.”
Rachel monitors costs, government regulations, production restraints and more to keep the project on track. Once the recipe is ready to go, she works in the production plant to ensure the formula can be made on a larger scale.
After growing up on her family’s grain and livestock farm, Rachel knew she wanted to stay involved in agriculture.
“As a kid, I loved working with all of the animals and livestock on our farm, but I believed that the only way to be involved in animal agriculture was to be a veterinarian,” Rachel said. “I set off to college with that goal in mind, and I discovered there are a lot of opportunities in animal agriculture that don’t require spending your life in college! I became involved in meats judging at the University of Illinois and that really was the starting pint of my career. I learned a lot about the meat industry which was a part of agriculture I had never really thought about. There really isn’t any better field to be in than food production. Everyone has to eat and that’s not going to change. And I take pride in knowing where my food comes from, and producing quality, safe food for not only my family, but yours, too.”
Being one of the last stops in the food chain before it reaches someone’s table, Rachel relies on farmers to produce high quality, affordable ingredients so that she can further process them into consumer goods. And farmers rely on her to create a demand and add value to their products.
“I always tell people that I have never seen anything in a food or meat plant that has caused me to stop eating any particular food,” Rachel said. “Food and meat plants are not scary, dirty places. They aren’t like the Chipotle commercials where they show toxic chemicals being pumped into the food. The equipment, ingredients, packaging and processes have been tested and retested and tested again to ensure they are safe. We are thinking about food safety and food quality 24/7 so that consumers don’t have to.”
Don’t forget to check out all the awesome blogs happening this month over at Prairie Farmer.
For the full Faces Behind Your Food Series, check out the links below:
- Intro: 30 Days
- Day 1: Managing…everything
- Day 2: Building Relationships
- Day 3: 50/50
- Day 4: Irons in the Fire
- Day 5: Loaded Up and Trucking
- Day 6: Variety is the Spice of Life
- Day 7: Beef. It’s what’s for dinner.
- Day 8: You have got to start somewhere.
- Day 9: The earth that calls me.
- Day 10: Teaching changes the way I look at things at home.
- Day 11: A Family Affair
- Day 12: Diversification.
- Day 13: Bigger is Better
- Day 14: Working for the Weekend
- Day 15: Three Generations of Pauling Brothers
- Day 16: “Quality and consistency is what makes us great.”
- Day 17: Community Supported Agriculture
- Day 18: “We wouldn’t sell something to our customers that we wouldn’t eat ourselves.”
- Day 19: The kitchen table is still the board room.
- Day 20: It all starts with a seed.