August 2017 Young Alum of the Month

Name: Aaron Blakely

Title and company: Research and Development Scientist at Johnsonville Foods

Hometown: Alleman, Iowa

Major and graduation date: ‘13 animal science, ‘15 MS meat science/food science and technology

Once an intern for Johnsonville Sausage, Aaron Blakely now serves the company as a research and development scientist. He oversees the creation of new flavors and researches the shelf-life of Johnsonville’s products.

When it is time for a new product or refreshing an existing one, Blakely conducts a flavor scope.

“After we receive 5-10 different kinds of up-and-coming spices from the spice company, we’ll ask ourselves what is interesting about them. We also ask ourselves how we can tweak it to make it our own. Bourbon barbecue is great example of a recent flavor scope we conducted,” said Blakely.

Blakely enjoys his evolving responsibilities as he advances his career in research and development at Johnsonville. One day he hopes to work as a senior scientist with management responsibilities.

“The highlight of my current position is that I have the opportunity to learn. I’m still pretty young in my career. By working with plant employees who ask questions, I learn along with them.” said Blakely.

Blakely credits working in the Iowa State Meat Laboratory for introducing him to his passion. Blakely heard numerous stories from his high school FFA adviser about his adviser’s own experiences in the Meat Laboratory

One professor in particular made a lasting impact on Blakely. Elisabeth Huff-Lonergan, professor of meat science and muscle biology, challenged Blakely to develop a new thought process towards the production of meat that he still uses today.

“Aaron always asked great questions and stimulated the other students to think about the practical applications of what we were studying either in class or in the laboratory.  Aaron was never afraid of hard work and had a fabulous attitude about putting in the hours needed to get a task done.” said Huff-Lonergan.

While he was working on his master’s degree, Blakely enrolled in his favorite Iowa State course, advanced muscle biology. This course, taught by Huff-Longergan, is one  Blakely credits as both challenging and rewarding

“My three years in the ISU Meat Lab didn’t just show me how products are made. While discovering my passion, I began establishing my network with Iowa State alums across the food industry.” said Blakely.

As the fall semester approaches, Blakely encourages current students to become more involved with their classes and network with others in their chosen industry.

“Find someone who has connections in the industry you want a career in,” said Blakely. “My whole career in the meat industry started with one guy.”

Blakely is looking forward to meeting with Iowa State University students as a recruiter for Johnsonville Foods during the annual college-sponsored Agriculture and Life Sciences Career Day on October 17.