Alumni Spotlight: Aaron Asmus, Hormel Foods
Aaron Asmus graduated from Iowa State with a B.S. in animal science in 2001. He then continued on to earn his M.S. in meat science in 2003. He is the Director of Lab Services and Refrigerated Foods Product Development at Hormel Foods. Prior to his time at Hormel Foods, he also worked for Jennie-O Turkey Store (subsidiary of Hormel Foods).
Aaron’s role at Hormel is dynamic, and no two days are the same. He manages the Lab Services Group, which includes the Chemistry, Microbiology, Sensory & Shelf Life, Food Safety Research Labs, and Thermal Process Authorities labs. He also manages Refrigerated Foods Product Development, including any products seen in the refrigerated case at the grocery store and product development work for the Food Service and Deli groups. In a typical day, a number of concerns or issues can arise, but Aaron enjoys the proactive role he can take in addressing issues and contributing to a safe, high-quality food supply. “My family eats this food, and I want to be sure they’re safe too.”
“I truly enjoyed my six years at Iowa State.” Aaron credits his Iowa State experience for preparing him for his past and current roles. “The things I learned there I still carry with me.” While in undergrad, he learned science through coursework. His favorite class was AN S 360, Fresh Meats, where he began to consider a career in meat science. He was also involved in the Block and Bridle Meat Interest Group and gained experience through campus opportunities like the Plant Transformation Lab in Agronomy and working for the USDA at the National Veterinary Services Lab. He further learned how to apply his knowledge and experiences in grad school. “My master’s program is what changed me from knowing about science to becoming a scientist,” he says of his Master’s work with Dr. Elisabeth Huff-Lonergan. While Aaron encourages students passionate about science to pursue grad school opportunities, there are many opportunities to take advantage of in the food and agriculture industry that don’t require an advanced degree.
Aaron advises students to keep seizing opportunities no matter how big or small. “Sometimes, the place you’ll learn the most is not a big internship.” All jobs can teach life skills and build experience if you walk in with an open mind. “The biggest thing to remember is any experience is valuable,” he says to students as they prepare to enter a COVID job market. “The job you find may not be perfect, but take it and learn as much from it as you can.” By taking opportunities to learn and making the most out of it, students can succeed in their educational and professional careers.