By Jenna Comes

After graduating from Iowa State University in Ames with a degree in animal science, Bailey Petersen was looking for good companies to work for.

She took a job at Hormel Foods Corporation right out of college. Hormel Foods has about 20,000 employees worldwide. The company’s headquarters is in Austin, Minn.

“The culture of Hormel is pretty unique,” Petersen said. “It’s a small town feel, but a large company.”

Coming from a farm background, Petersen wanted to stay in the agriculture industry, just a different sector (the food production). Growing up, she showed cattle and was involved in 4-H and FFA. Petersen is a 2011 graduate of Maple Valley-Anthon Oto High School.

Petersen is a thermal process scientist at Hormel Foods. Her current position includes overseeing the thermal processing of the products and ensuring all products on the shelf are safe for consumers.

“As a thermal process scientist, my primary task consists of conducting studies on grocery products (i.e. SPAM®, chili, Compleats®) and developing cooking process for the plants,” Petersen said when she was featured in September as the Iowa State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences “Young Alum of the Month.”

“When the plant deviates from their cooking process because of mechanical delays or other issues, another function of my job is to confirm that product is safe by conducting additional cooking studies or by evaluating the cooking process they used,” Petersen said.

Petersen spends about 30 to 40% her time traveling to different Hormel Foods production plants, including Atlanta, Ga., but mostly stays in the Midwest plants in Wichita, Kan., northern Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Traveling to the plants is Petersen’s favorite part of her job.

“I like meeting new people and building bridges with other individuals at the plants,” Petersen said. “I like visiting with people you don’t normally talk to on a daily basis.”

She added, “The opportunity to be a part of producing safe food that my family and other people’s families consume is very rewarding in my job!”

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