SDSU graduate student earns National Cattlemen’s Foundation Scholarship

Farm Forum

BROOKINGS — Megan Webb, a South Dakota State University meat science graduate student, has been chosen as a recipient of the prestigious W.D. Farr Scholarship from the National Cattlemen’s Foundation (NCF). Webb joined the Animal Science Department as a Graduate Research Assistant in January 2015 to pursue her Ph.D.

While at SDSU, Webb has been involved in several meat science research projects focusing on the impacts of pre-harvest management on end-product quality. Her most recent project has involved establishing a multi-disciplinary team of researchers, including experts beyond SDSU, to study consumers’ response to beef raised with and without common production technologies, such as antibiotics, implants, and beta-agonists.

Webb is utilizing a consumer taste panel to see if preferences for meat products are changed when pre-harvest management techniques are disclosed to consumers. She is and will continue to work with USDA Agriculture Research Service and Agriculture Marketing Service to evaluate sustainability data of treatments with the objective of developing beef marketing labels that provide transparency. Ultimately the goal of the study is to determine if there is a preferred marketing language depending on production method, and if consumers have a preference in beef palatability and willingness-to-pay. Further, live cattle performance and economic data will be analyzed to guide producers when making production decisions.

Another SDSU study that Webb managed is aimed at helping cow-calf producers by examining the effects of nursing-calf implant timing on growth performance and carcass characteristics. She has also collaborated on a project evaluating the effects of maternal protein restriction of first-time heifers during mid- to late-gestation on carcass composition and meat quality of progeny.

Webb credits her doctorate advisor, Amanda Blair, SDSU meat science associate professor, for believing in her and guiding her development as a researcher. Webb said, “Dr. Blair’s mentorship and support are the reasons why I was able to achieve this award. Receiving this award is humbling as it has been bestowed upon several of my peers and role models in the beef industry.”

She added, “Winning the scholarship means that I have grown professionally and conducted research important to the beef industry.” Webb greatly appreciates the support of all the authors and professors involved in the projects she has worked on at SDSU and said, “As a graduate student, the best part about the Animal Science Department is the collaborative opportunity.”

The ability to collaborate with other meat scientists, nutritionists, geneticists, veterinarians and industry personnel has provided Webb with endless research thought and support. “Having a group of professors who are willing to work together to solve challenging and dynamic questions made SDSU the right choice for me,” said Webb.

The $12,000 scholarship is awarded to two recipients annually to honor W.D. Farr who was a third generation Coloradan, pioneer rancher, statesman and banker known for his extraordinary vision. His dedication to improving agriculture, livestock, and water development has resulted in significant changes in farming methods that have influenced the practices of ranchers and farmers throughout the nation, according to the NCF’s website. Webb added that Mr. Farr was known as a community man who offered opportunities for others and said that now it’s her turn to pay it forward.

In addition to receiving $12,000 in scholarship funds, Webb will also be a guest at the 2017 National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Convention in Nashville, TN.

A native of Burlington, W.V., Webb, received a Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Science with a Meat Science Certification from Texas A&M before earning a Master’s Degree at Colorado State University in 2014. While attending Texas A&M University, Webb became familiar with a quote from fellow Jackrabbit Dr. Howard Hesby, a well-known Animal Science Professor at both universities, – “Don’t let the classroom interfere with your education.” Webb said the quote is one she holds dear that has been her education backbone.

Webb chose SDSU after taking note of past graduates’ success in industry, academia and as entrepreneurs. “Seeing those students perform well engaged me and made me want to come to SDSU to be mentored by Dr. Blair and Dr. Keith Underwood,” she said.

Webb plans to receive her Ph.D. in December 2017 with the hope of obtaining a liaison position in the beef industry between the producer, processor, and consumer to improve transparency and build consumer trust.

In a letter recommending Webb for this scholarship, Blair said, “Megan is motivated to pursue creative solutions to increase transparency with consumers and drive demand for beef. It is very rare to find an individual with such a positive attitude, academic ability and enthusiasm for this industry. I am confident Megan will continue to develop into an influential leader in the beef industry, providing scientific guidance to difficult production questions as well as effectively training future stakeholders.”