AMSA’s 2020 Achievement Award Honors Dustin Boler, Travis O’Quinn & Gary Sullivan

The American Meat Science Association (AMSA) has announced the three AMSA members that will be the recipients of the Distinguished Achievement Award. Dr. Dustin Boler, Dr. Travis O’Quinn and Dr. Gary Sullivan will be honored on Thursday, August 6, 2020 at 3:30 p.m. (CST), during the Virtual 66th International Congress of Meat Science and Technology (ICoMST) and the AMSA 73rd Reciprocal Meat Conference (RMC) awards presentation. The Achievement Award was established in 1992 and is designed to recognize and foster the development of young AMSA members who have demonstrated significant skills and contribution to the animal products industry and the AMSA. The award is sponsored by Burke Corporation.

Dr. Dustin Boler

Dustin Boler, originally from Spencer, Ind., is a Meat Scientist for Topigs Norsvin and is known for his experience with pork quality, growth promoting technologies in meat animals, and contemporary issues facing the meat industry. 

After graduating from Purdue University with a B.S.  in Animal Sciences and Agricultural Economics, Boler began his career in quality assurance at Tyson Prepared Foods. Later, he enrolled in graduate school at the University of Illinois. He earned his M.S. (2008) and Ph.D. (2011) under the direction of Drs. Floyd McKeith and John Killefer. His Ph.D. focused on the effects of Improvest, and its effects on carcass composition, lean meat yield, and further processed pork quality.

After earning his Ph.D., Boler spent two years on faculty at Ohio State and then joined the faculty at Illinois. Boler was promoted to the rank of Associate Professor in 2018.

Boler has worked with animal pharmaceutical companies, genetic companies, and with many major meat packers in the United States. Some of his more recent research accomplishments include establishing the relationship (or lack thereof) between primal quality within the pig, publicizing the improvement in tenderness when pork is cooked to 145°F, and determining changes in pork quality as pigs are marketed at increasingly heavier weights.

Boler has given 9 international and 12 domestic invited research presentations including presentations at ICoMST and RMC. He has authored or coauthored 96 peer reviewed journal articles, a chapter in the second edition of the Encyclopedia of Meat Sciences, a chapter in Branded Beef Programs: Ensuring Safety and Quality in the Production of Beef, Vol. 2: Quality, over 100 abstracts, and 4 invited white papers. Boler has raised over $2.3 million as the principal investigator or co-investigator for research projects. These grants were awarded from commodity groups such as the National Pork Board and the United Soybean Board, as well as numerous corporate partners. In total, at both Ohio State and Illinois, Boler mentored seven M.S. students and four Ph.D. students.

He instructed or co-instructed six meat science classes at Ohio State and four at Illinois. He was recognized with the J.G. and A.M. Smith Award for Teaching Excellence. In addition to his classroom teaching, he also mentored five undergraduate students in independent research projects. 

Boler has been committed to serving the larger meat industry and engaging the public with his expertise. He has given over 25 public outreach and extension presentations or events with groups such as the Illinois Association of Meat Processors, Pork 101, and meat industry and livestock groups in Ohio, Illinois and Wisconsin. He also gave many presentations to student and public groups that visited the Illinois campus. Additionally, during his time at Illinois, he served on the Board of Directors of the Illinois Association of Meat Processors. His service to IAMP was recently recognized with their highest honor, the Sleeter Bull Meat Processors Award (2020).

Boler was elected to the AMSA Board of Directors and served from 2016-2019.  He served on and/or chaired the following AMSA committees: Pork 101 Curriculum and Host Committee (2013-2018, chair 2015-2016); RMC Abstracts Committee (co-chair, 2014, chair, 2015); Publications (2016-2019, chair 2016-2018); Scientific Information Committee (2012-2015);  Graduate Student Poster Competition Committee (2012-2015); Meat Science Journal Committee (2012-2018) and assisted in drafting the AMSA Meat Lexicon (2016-2019). He appeared on Chicago Tonight to discuss red meat and cancer in 2015 and provided public comment regarding foods produced by animal cell culture to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2018. He also participated in NAMI’s Meat Mythcrushers series regarding the use of the term “clean meat.”

He serves on the editorial board of both the Journal of Animal Science and Translational Animal Science and was guest editor for Animal Frontiers in 2016. Recently, he was Task Force Chair for a paper on lab-based meat products published by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology.

Dr. Travis O’Quinn

Dr. Travis O’Quinn is an Associate Professor in the Department of Animal Science and Industry at Kansas State University. He earned his B.S. and M.S. in Animal Science from Texas Tech University in 2008 and 2010 and completed his Ph.D. in Meat Science in 2012 from Colorado State University. Following graduation, O’Quinn was hired as a Sr. Research Associate by Texas Tech University where he helped lead a large-scale beef consumer study developing a palatability-based beef grading system. In 2014, O’Quinn was hired by Kansas State University in a research and extension role, which was changed in 2017 to primarily teaching and research responsibilities. In the time since, O’Quinn has been responsible for teaching the Introduction to Meat Science class on-campus and as a part of the Global Campus each semester as well as both the Introduction and Advanced Meat Evaluation courses.

O’Quinn’s research program has primarily focused on beef eating quality and the factors impacting beef tenderness, juiciness, and flavor and how these factors interact to form an overall eating experience for consumers. He has worked extensively evaluating the impact of marbling and degree of doneness on beef palatability and how these two factors work together to affect overall beef eating quality. Moreover, work from his research group helped to develop an instrumental measure of beef juiciness that could be used simultaneously with current industry tenderness measures. O’Quinn has served as the Primary Investigator (PI) or Co-PI on grants totaling more than $2.6 million. He has also served as the author or coauthor on 49 peer-reviewed journal articles and 97 research abstracts presented at regional, national, and international meetings. He has served as the major professor for 11 graduate students and as a member of the supervisory committee for an additional 15 M.S. and Ph.D. candidates.

As the state Meat Extension Specialist for Kanas, O’Quinn focused on consumer education programming on fresh meat utilization, quality, safety, and production. He hosted a number of workshops including the very popular “Barbecue 101” program that taught grill masters of all experience levels more about the science behind grilling and smoking. Additionally, he published 36 extension Fact Sheets and research reports including a series focused on the types and number of retail cuts consumers could expect from beef, pork, and lamb carcasses when custom processed by small packers. In addition, O’Quinn has oversight of the state’s youth meat judging program and worked diligently to increase participation in these events since his arrival at K-State, serving as the host-site coordinator for the National 4-H Meat Judging Contest since 2014. In his extension role, O’Quinn gave 55 extension presentations and was interviewed for more than 47 different print, video, and radio news stories with a total reach of more than 3 million viewers/listeners.

Moreover, O’Quinn serves as the faculty sponsor and coach of the Kansas State Meat Judging and Meat Animal Evaluation teams. His teams have achieved a high level of success, with the meat judging teams he has coached placing first or second at more than 75% of the national contests in which they have competed, including winning the National Championship in 2009. He has also coached 7 Meat Animal Evaluation teams across multiple universities that have won the National Championship, including the first such championship in this event for K-State in 2016.

O’Quinn is an active professional member of AMSA and has served on a number of committees including the Undergraduate Quiz Bowl Committee, serving as the chair in 2016, the Undergraduate Scholastic Achievement Award Selection Committee, and currently serves as the chair of the AMSA 4-H Meat Judging Advisory Committee. He has also been an active member of the AMSA Intercollegiate Meat Judging Coaches Association since 2009.

Dr. Gary Sullivan

Dr. Gary Sullivan is an Associate Professor of Meat Processing in the Department of Animal Science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Sullivan was raised in Earling, Iowa and was active in 4-H, FFA, and with the World Food Prize.  He received his B.S. in Animal Science and International Agriculture from Iowa State University, a M.S. in Animal Science from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln under the supervision of Dr. Chris Calkins and completed his Ph.D. in Meat Science and Food Science and Technology at Iowa State University under Dr. Joe Sebranek and Dr. Ken Prusa.     

In 2011, he started as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Animal Science at University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a research and teaching appointment focused on Meat Processing.  His research centers on the impacts of ingredients and processing techniques on the quality, safety, and shelf life of meat products.  Research topics have included meat curing, sodium reduction, high pressure processing, influences of ingredients and processing on the spoilage microbiota in processed meats, and effects of cattle diets on processed meats shelf life. He has published 20 peer-reviewed manuscripts, 1 book chapter, 3 conference proceeding papers, 35 conference abstracts, and 26 university research reports. He has been the PI or Co-PI on $1.05 million in competitive research grants and industry service projects.  He has advised 6 M.S. and 2 Ph.D. students and served on the examining committee for 16 additional students.  In addition, 7 undergraduate students have conducted research projects under his supervision.

Sullivan teaches Meat Processing, Meat Technology, and leads the Meat Industry Study Tour.  To introduce students to meat science, Sullivan has developed, and taught Meat Science laboratory activities included in the introductory the Animal Science and Food Science courses.  His involvement in the Nebraska Youth Beef Leadership Symposium and Nebraska Youth Pork Conference programs for high schoolers connects students to the beef and pork they produce. He helped create and advises the Meat Science Club, has advised the Block and Bridle Club and the Animal Science Graduate Student Association, and provides faculty oversight of the Loeffel Meat Laboratory.   

Sullivan is an active member of AMSA and IFT.  He has been on the RMC technical planning committed since 2014 and has helped plan several processed meat focused sessions.  He was also part of the RMC host committee in 2015.  He is currently serving on the IFT Muscle Foods Division Leadership Team as an at-large member.  He has judged at the AAMP American Cured Meats Championship and several state Cured Meats Championships.

These AMSA members are exemplary young scholars, and their dedications to the industry make them outstanding candidates for the AMSA Distinguished Achievement Award.