Pearl Snaps

Stories of a cowgirl living life by her own lights


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Memorial of a Meat Geek

by Jesse Bussard

I spent my Monday this week attending a memorial for a close friend and colleague, Dr. Chris Raines, at Penn State University. Many of my friends in the agriculture social media circles know him as the infamous @iTweetMeat. He was what I’d call a ‘meat geek’. Another friend referred to Chris as her ‘Dr. Meat Dude.’ He was a inspiring individual. One that clearly made an impact on us all, as this was apparent in the kind words, thoughts, and memories shared about him during the ceremony. And in true Chris Raines’ fashion this may be one of the only memorials I’ve ever been to where the there was a mention of sausages and meat casings.

Chris was taken from us much to early in a car crash on December 18, 2011. I didn’t find out about his passing until the next day but compiled my thoughts in a memorial blog post you can read here.  I was glad when I heard that there would be a memorial service held for Chris on campus, as I was unable to attend his funeral.

The memorial was a truly touching ceremony and featured kind words from some of his closest colleagues, friends, and family.  Dr. Terry Etherton, Department Head of Dairy and Animal Science at Penn State gave a heartfelt introduction followed by a list of speakers that included:

  • Bruce McPheron, Dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences
  • Cathy Cutter, Associate Professor of Food Science & Food Safety Extension Specialist
  • Amanda Gipe, DAS Graduate Student and Friend
  • Ed Mills, Colleague and Friend
  • Sarah Doyle, Member of the Penn State Meats Judging Team
  • Steve Bookbinder, Food Science Undergraduate Student
  • Brent Raines, Father of Chris Raines

The folks that put together this memorial did a great job coming up with a list of speakers that shared some unique memories of Chris and made us all laugh and shed a tear remembering his drive, ambition, and fresh perspective on life.  I think of all the speakers though, when Chris’s father spoke it hit home the most. He spoke of Chris’s uniqueness and drive even as a youngster and how that propelled him to be the amazing individual that we all came to love and know so well.  Amanda Gipe, Chris’s former graduate student even compiled a series of videos featuring photos and video recordings of some of Chris’s fondest memories and the great work he did for meat science.  You can watch the videos on Chris Raines’ Facebook Page here.  Also as it only seemed fitting to live tweet the event in honor of Chris’s memory, you can check out the #itweetmeat Twitter stream here.


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Carpe diem, before it’s too late

by Jesse Bussard

I was driving east this morning on I-64, on my way back to Pennsylvania to visit the family for Christmas, when I received a text message. It read, “Snaps, Raines died in a car accident last night.”  This message came from one of my best friends, Amy Shollenberger.  We had both become close friends with Dr. Chris Raines, during our time at Penn State University.

At first, my reaction was disbelief.  No one wants to hear that someone close to them is gone.  I had to pull off the road.  It was too much to process.  I checked Facebook and found the article from the Centre Daily Times that reaffirmed my worst fears.  Raines’ truly was gone.

I spent the next 5 hours fighting off tears and driving.  At one point, while stopping for gas somewhere in West Virginia I pulled up Facebook on my phone to see what was going on.  I was floored by the  overwhelming amount of comments and posts in relation to Raines’ death.  Taking the time to read a tribute post by Andy Vance, I couldn’t help but break out in tears again.

I spent a lot of time driving today and I had a lot of time to think back on my experiences with Chris Raines.  You see, I considered him a close friend.  I looked up to him and valued his opinion.  Our relationship wasn’t the typical student-professor kind.  I never had Dr. Raines for a class.  It was more sheer luck that we even connected at my time at Penn State as I wasn’t exactly a meat science student.  I like to think that our relationship was more one of viewing each other as peers.

I can’t pinpoint the first time Chris and I talked.  It was sometime back in the Fall of 2009.  Our newly formed Collegiate Cattlewomen chapter at Penn State was planning our travel to the 2010 NCBA Convention in San Antonio and Chris offered his assistance in helping me get things set up.  He later went on to act as a chaperone for our group along with the Beef Quiz Bowl Team during our time at the convention.  I’ll never forget our flight down.  We had a layover in Detroit to catch our connecting flight to San Antonio.  So to pass the time, Chris and I stopped at an Irish Pub in the airport for a Guinness.  You could always count on Chris for some interesting conversation over a beer.

From this first connection we developed a friendship of sorts.  I helped him with a few extension educational events, such as his Freezer Beef School and learned a lot about how he was using social media as an educational tool to reach both those in the meat industry and consumers.

It was about this time last year, I was getting close to graduating, when Chris approached me with the idea that I should start my own blog.  I think that without his encouragement “Pearl Snaps’ Ponderings” would cease to exist.  Chris was always one to make you question things.  He was one to challenge your standards and your perception of common public opinion.  Through this he made me a more critical thinker.

The last opportunity I had to see Chris was in May of this year.  He and another close friend, Jude Capper were in Washington, DC during the same time I and two good friends, Sarah Muirhead and Ray Bowman, were in town for the Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholder’s Summit.  We had the chance to meet twice for dinner that week and I never thought for one second that would be the last time I’d see him in person.  This goes to show that we shouldn’t take life or our friends for granted.  In the blink of an eye we can be gone from this world.

The number one quality I admire in people is passion.  Passion involves putting your all into everything you do.  Chris Raines was a man of passion.  No matter what he did, he was forthright and honest.  He put it all on the line and didn’t hold anything back.  These are the qualities that make a difference in this world and I truly believe Chris Raines made a difference.  In fact, I know he did.  He made  a difference in my life.  He encouraged me, challenged me, and supported me and for that I will always be grateful.

There is a million more things I could go on to say about Chris but I’m going to stop here.  My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and the rest of his friends.  He’ll always have a place in my heart.  Here’s to the future that could have been…RIP Chris Raines.

If there’s one thing Chris would want us all to do it would be to “seize the day.”  So in that spirit, “Carpe diem, before it’s too late.”

Many other individuals who knew Chris also wrote some touching tributes to him.  I hope you’ll take the time to read through some of them.

I also encourage you to check out Chris’s blogs, MeatBlogger.org and the Academic Abattoir.  You can find some of the great educational videos about meat science Chris produced here on YouTube.

And the following are two videos Dr. Raines did in cooperation with MeatMythCrushers:


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Inside the Penn State Meats Lab: Local Burgers, Courtesy of Happy Valley Cows

via State College, PA – Inside the Penn State Meats Lab: Local Burgers, Courtesy of Happy Valley Cows.

by Michele Marchetti

I’m not wearing the right shoes.

That’s the first thought that went through my mind when Chris Raines offered to take me on a behind-the-scenes tour of The Penn State Meats Laboratory. The 16,000-square-foot lab is across from Beaver Stadium on Porter Road, inside what might be the ugliest building on the University Park campus.

Inside, Raines, an extension meat specialist and assistant professor in Penn State’s department of dairy and animal science, spends his days researching, processing, tasting and tweeting meat. (Nearly 3,000 people follow him on Twitter at @iTweetMeat.)

I contacted Raines because I wanted to learn more about the Friday meat sale that has customers lining up even in 10-degree weather.

The sale is the last step in a self-contained food system that exists to educate Penn State students and various members of the agriculture community, from farmers to butchers.

Lucky for the general consumer, that food system happens to yield plenty of high-quality, USDA-inspected meat, including beef, pork and lamb.

I first heard of the meat sale from a friend. He’s endured long lines, unpredictable availability (this isn’t a grocery store), and dirty looks from customers who also wanted that last steak. The “meat sale,” he says, simply has the best food to serve at a Penn State tailgate.

If you ask me, those stories make the steak fajitas taste even better.

To read the rest of this great article, click here.

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