2021 American Meat Science Association Signal Service Honorees Announced

Kearney, MO. August 5, 2021 – The American Meat Science Association (AMSA) announces Sharon Beals, Dr. James Claus, Dr. Steven Jones, Dr. Gretchen Mafi, and Dr. Youling Xiong, are the recipients of the 2021 AMSA Signal Service Award. The Signal Service Award is sponsored by Elanco Animal Health, Cargill, Johnsonville, LLC., Meyer Natural Foods, and Seaboard Foods. Established in 1956 the AMSA Signal Service Award was and is given to members to recognize devoted service and lasting contributions to the meat industry and the association. The recipients are being honored during the 74th AMSA Reciprocal Meat Conference (RMC) awards presentation on August 17, 2021, in Reno, Nevada, hosted by the University of Nevada – Reno.

Sharon Beals

Sharon Beals, M.S., is the Senior Vice President of Food Safety & Quality for CTI Foods, an American company leading the future of custom, private label, and refrigerated and prepared foods. In this role, Sharon is responsible for leading all aspects of FSQ for seven manufacturing facilities. Head of Innovation Mario Valdovino commented that, “Sharon uses her scientific expertise and vast industry experience to translate and leverage practical business processes that are laser-focused on the agenda of an integrated safe supply chain, sustainability, and social impact programs.”

Beals served on the AMSA Board of Directors during a significant change for the organization, being particularly instrumental in recruiting new sustaining partners. Given that this time also saw the appointment of a new CEO and the creation of Meat and Muscle Biology, Sharon’s focus on securing funding helped sustain AMSA during this transition period. Sharon’s service to AMSA includes serving on numerous committees, including QA 101 Curriculum & Instructor, Scientific Information, Research Award Selection, Research Protocol, Meat Processing Award Selection, 2015 Reciprocation Session Co-chair, and Chair of the 2017 RMC.  She currently serves on the AMSA Development Council to provide financial foundation for AMSA education, professional development, and scholarship awards.

James Claus

Dr. James Claus is the Director and a Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is passionate about meat science, helping students learn, and creating a learning environment where his students develop a passion for meat science as well. Jim is a tough mentor that treats his students like family. Jim has served on the AMSA Board of Directors, as Chair of the RMC, co-host Chair of the RMC, and has received the AMSA Distinguished Teaching Award. In addition, he has published over 70 peer-reviewed journal papers and received approximately 2.5 million dollars in research funding.

Claus believes in the importance of realizing that we live in a diverse world in which we are called to impact and improve people’s lives wherever possible. His willingness to believe in students and provide experiential learning opportunities challenges students to learn what their gifts are and develop them.

Dr. Wes Schilling, Mississippi State University attributes Claus for “many of my character traits and core values, due to the impact that he has had on me. I look at a research project and design an experiment based on his thoroughness and his search for the mechanism that caused the statistical difference and the industry problem.”

Steven Jones

Dr. Steve Jones is a Professor in the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) and an emeritus member of AMSA. Dr. Jones has taught courses in Meat Science, Growth and Development, Animal Biological Systems and National and International study programs in his professorship role. He also researches the growth and development of muscle tissue in food animals. 

Dr. Jones is best known for his outstanding service to the meat science students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He has received every significant teaching recognition awarded through the university. He recently received the 2020 Senior Faculty Holling Family Award for Teaching Excellence from the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, UNL, for the second time. He was first awarded this recognition in 2003, evidence of his continual push for excellence in teaching. Dr. Jones received the University of Nebraska Distinguish Teaching Award in 2002. Dr. Jones has also been recognized for his Teaching Excellence by AMSA in 2002 and Gamma Sigma Delta in 1998.

Dr. Jones says his “greatest accomplishment has been in some small way, to kindle a passion for learning Meat Science in students, and to watch a few students let their passion grow and develop to the point that they choose to make in their life’s work.”

Gretchen Mafi

Dr. Gretchen Mafi, Professor at Oklahoma State University (OSU), has been influential in the meat science industry by her persistent commitment to educating the next generation of scientists and industry professionals. As an active servant to the industry and her profession, she has reached over 5,000 undergraduate students and hundreds of graduate students through traditional and online learning. Many are leaders in the meat industry today.

She is highly respected by fellow faculty, staff, and students, as evidenced by her selection as a recipient of the USDA National Excellence in Teaching Award in 2020. She cares about her students and holds them to high standards of learning and application in all the courses she teaches. Dr. Mafi commented, “I believe my greatest contribution to academia and the industry is student development. My passion is to create outstanding leaders, valuable citizens, and supportive alumni. Witnessing the achievements of former students brings me tremendous joy and makes my career truly meaningful.”

Beyond teaching, Mafi is an accomplished researcher, having garnered over $4.5 million in external grants since she began her career at OSU and having 88 refereed journal articles and five book chapters. Mafi is no stranger to the American Meat Science Association, as she has been a member for over 25 years. 

Youling Xiong

Dr. Youling Xiong is a Professor at the University of Kentucky and has been a professional member of AMSA since 1990. His 31-year membership with AMSA is marked with loyalty, devotion, commitment, and service. He is instrumental in fostering the interaction and collaboration of AMSA members with Chinese meat scientists and the meat industry. 

As a scholar and academician, Youling has taught Meat Science, Animal Derived Foods, and Advanced Meat Science to more than 1,000 students, mentoring 37 Ph.D. and 29 M.S. students. The influence of his mentorship is evidenced by the key positions held by his former students; for example, presidents or vice-presidents in companies (CAB, Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken, etc.); R&D technical managers; research scientists; and university professors. Youling’s meat science research at the University of Kentucky has resulted in 290 peer-reviewed publications in meat science and food science journals, with most addressing meat quality, shelf-life, and muscle protein functionality. His pioneering research on meat protein oxidation and meat protein functionality is well regarded and influential for meat processing and ingredient innovation.

Dr. Xiong said he “always wanted to be a teacher; a career of mentoring and developing both undergraduate and graduate students is a dream come true! I am immensely gratified whenever seeing a student I trained made an impact in the meat and food industry.”


AMSA is an organization recognized for its unmatched competence and commitment to attracting and developing meat industry leaders and providing science-based meat research and information. For more information, please visit www.meatscience.org/rmc or contact Deidrea Mabry at 1-800-517-AMSA ext. 12.