Jim Lamke is known as ‘the meat guy’ at Givaudan. He is, quite possibly, one of the most knowledgeable working professionals in the meat industry! Not only does he teach and mentor employees at Givaudan, but he takes those skills to our customers every day. This food technologist is an invaluable asset to many people.
Mary G: Jim, what are some facts few may know about you?
Jim: I actually started in the food industry as a Food Inspection Specialist with the US Army Veterinarian Corp. I initially wanted to become a veterinarian. I have also worked with meat processors on 6 of the 7 continents. There are very few processors on Antarctica.
And also, the science behind meat processing does not change as you go from country to country. What does change are the ingredients available for making products, as well as the ability of the people within the region to afford those products.
Mary G: Describe a typical day at work: what do you REALLY do, Jim?
Jim: There really isn’t a typical day, and that’s one thing I like about this industry.
But I’d also say that the remainder of the activity can be divided into New Product Development (NPD), Continuous Improvement(CI), or Corrective Action (CA). New Product Development is a team approach with our customers, and we have some of the best supporting teams within Givaudan. Our chefs can take those concepts and develop a culinary standard that captures their idea in physical form. Flavorists and seasoning formulators capture the essence of that culinary standard to provide a flavor blend that closely matches the concept. Then we provide the processor with guidance that allows them to adapt the processes needed to industrialize the product for consumer acceptance.
Our teams can provide customers with a combination of ingredients to meet their objectives. With the recent acquisitions of Spicetec, Activ and Naturex we are in a position to provide integrated solutions that combine functional ingredients with flavor components to make a product successful.
Mary G: What is your favorite part of your job or the industry?
Jim: I enjoy science. I enjoy food. The idea of using the knowledge of science at the molecular level to solve a processing challenges is exciting. We work with agricultural products which, by nature, have inherent variability. Consumers, on the other hand, want consistency. Our teams have to understand what causes the variability so we can adjust.
The other aspect of this industry is the people. For the most part, people that populate this industry have their roots in agriculture: they’re down-to-earth people with whom I enjoy working.
Mary G: Where do you see the processed meat industry moving in the future?
Jim: Not long ago, all food was organic using natural ingredients; we did not have the technology to produce it any other way. As consumers started asking for less expensive food, longer shelf-life (so they wouldn’t have to go to the store quite so often), and a safe food supply, technology found ways to meet those demands. The pendulum started swinging away from natural foods and more toward processed foods. But there is also a belief that the pendulum has swung too far away from the natural side, and we need to reassess the ingredients and methods of processing to bring it back.
Traditional meat products will not go away anytime soon, but products that are perceived as being healthier and less processed are here to stay.
Mary G: Anything else you’d like to add Jim?
Jim: I want to emphasize that working as a team is what makes us successful: our internal team, our customer’s team, and us as a joint team. As Steve Jobs once said, “We don’t hire smart people to tell them what to do. We hire smart people to tell us what to do.” Working as an individual is like looking at the world with blinders on. Working as a team of food technologists gives us a view of the situation from different perspectives so the right decision can be made.
Jim’s Background: After receiving his BS, and MS in Meat Science, he pursued his PhD and spent 7 years in academia before moving into the industry.