College of Agriculture

Jennifer Perez

Animal Science

Meat production has historically been a male-dominated field because of the sheer physical strength it requires. But over the years, more and more females have striven to break down these barriers. Among them, California State University, Chico senior and 2019 Star Student in Animal Science Jennifer Perez looks forward to making an impact on this growing field.

Perez’s interest in the meats industry sparked at CSU, Chico when she began interning at the Meats Laboratory in the summer of 2017, and her passion has grown ever since. Prior to her move to Chico, the slaughter process, and livestock in general, were abstract concepts to her.

Jennifer PerezHailing from Colton, California, Perez’s life around small animals fueled an initial drive to obtain her degree in animal science with an intent to attend veterinary school upon graduation. Since elementary school, she dreamed of caring for animals as a career but was never exposed beyond the cats and dogs in her own home. Perez’s first exposure to livestock, while interning at the Chico State Sheep Unit, began to open her eyes to the new avenues agriculture had to offer. After her first summer as an intern at the Meats Lab, Perez was hired part-time and unexpectedly fell in love with the job.

“I never thought that the slaughter process or meat industry would be for me, but it’s been a transformative experience,” Perez said. “I’ve learned how providing a quality product to the consumer is the main goal, but there’s so much that goes into it.”

One of the key points in meat processing is the aspect of safety and quality control, which is where Perez has formed her passion. Coupled with her hands-on job, she references Professor Crystal Water’s “Food Sanitation and Quality Control” class (ANSC 450), for developing her interest in food safety and complying with “Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points” protocol (HACCP).

Without the influence of Meats Lab supervisor Haydn Clement, Perez wouldn’t be as strong-willed and independent as she is today.

“Working in the Meats Lab, I’ve realized how male-dominated the industry is, but even though I’m a very short female, Haydn expects the same out of me. He doesn’t see me any differently and challenges me to have the same experiences as the boys, moving and lifting heavy things. It’s really shown me I can do anything,” Perez said.

“After her first few weeks in the Meats Lab, It became obvious that Jenny always completes her work with determination and a particularly positive attitude that creates a warm atmosphere to work in, which is quite a feat inside a 40-degree concrete building,” Clement said. “While she has always been a valuable employee, she has begun to take on those qualities of a true leader, and I know she will be successful in whatever career she chooses.”

Practicing her hands-on skills in meat processing, slaughter, and fabrication process, as well as food safety and quality control, Perez has built a strong platform for herself, which sets her apart from her peers when applying for jobs.

In addition to her work experience in the Meats Lab, Perez also worked alongside Professor Michael Chao collecting data, harvesting carcasses, and compiling the research to present. The study titled  “Sensory Evaluation of California and Australian Skin-on Goat Meat” was presented in the undergraduate poster competition at the Reciprocal Meats Conference in 2018, where Perez also competed on an undergraduate quiz bowl team and won the iron chef culinary competition.

When she’s not studying or working, she values having “me-time” where she can relax and watch a good movie or work a nap into her schedule. In addition, making time for being with family is a priority for Perez.

“I’m doing everything I can to succeed for me. I want to be something, but I’m also doing it for them,” she said. “They have been so motivational and supportive and I want to give the same to them.”

Perez will graduate this upcoming spring 2019 and has already accepted employment with the Japanese sauce and seasoning company Nippon Shokken in Sacramento working in quality control.