But things change and experiences lead us along paths we never knew existed. Some of that is fortuitous, and some of it is forging a bold new direction. Either way, working in the chicken meat industry is a rewarding experience – no two days are ever the same.
Part of Program Development Officer, Kylie Hewson’s role with the AgriFutures™ Chicken Meat Program, is to build capacity in the industry, plan for succession and find people with the right skills who are starting to utter the words ‘I want to work in the chicken meat industry’, a place in this fast paced and ever changing industry.
We interviewed two newcomers to find out how they made their start in the chicken meat industry.
Ryan Hopcroft: Assistant Nutritionist, Inghams
Tell me about your interests after school?
I was always interested in animals and science at school. I did all three sciences: chemistry, physics and biology. I have always had an interest in agriculture and sustainability. I decided to do a degree at the University of Sydney in Animal Veterinary Bioscience. It was a four year degree that included an honours project in fourth year. I worked in Peter Selle’s group looking at sorghum and using proteases try and digest them. I also did six weeks work experience with Greg Cronin at the Free Range Poultry Trial Farm Facility and ended up working there full time as a Research Assistant.
Did you do any Post Grad Studies?
Yes, I am still completing my PhD at the moment. The topic is ‘residual yolk usage in chickens’.
How did you get work experience in the chicken meat industry?
When I attended the APSS conference in February this year, I was speaking with Kylie Hewson the Program Development Officer for the AgriFutures™ Chicken Meat Program and said that I really wanted to meet some industry people. Kylie introduced me to Kath Balding and Geoff Clatworthy from Inghams. From this conversation, I was offered work experience at their Leppington Trial Facility. During my work experience, I took the opportunity to ask as them if there was room to have me work in the nutrition space at Inghams. The opportunity to attend the APSS conference was a valuable learning curve – I learnt how important it is to network, which isn’t something that comes naturally to me.
What value was there in being able to do work experience in the industry?
It was so valuable. I have ended up working in my dream role where I work feeding the chickens (as a nutritionist assistant) as well as doing some research. The hands-on work experience is so important, even if you don’t work in industry. As a researcher, understanding how the industry works give the research work so much more context.
What are you doing now?
In my role as a nutritionist assistant, I am working with data on breeder flocks and also on a unified statistics program and I also work with a graduate students program. My research experience brings value to Inghams and I just love that I get to feed chickens and also have a hand in the research undertaken at Inghams.
What would you recommend to others who want to work in the chicken meat industry?
My advice to others who want to work in the industry is to let someone know, talk to Kylie Hewson (Program Development Officer), attend conferences and meet people in the industry. I don’t think you necessarily need a degree, but figure out your strengths and how you might apply them in an industry role. Take opportunities that come up and most of all don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Opportunities only come to you, if you create them. Show your willingness to be there and give things a go.