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Animal Sciences

New study offers good news for pork producers

Published April 18, 2017
  • In a unique study looking at nearly 8,000 commercially raised pigs, scientists analyzed meat quality and variability.
  • Although loin quality did not predict ham and belly quality, the majority of the findings were good news for pork producers.
  • Meat quality did not vary significantly across sex, marketing group, production focus, or season, suggesting there is no good reason for pork producers to change their management strategies.

URBANA, Ill. – What happens when meat scientists get their hands on nearly 8,000 commercially raised pigs? They spend a year running dozens of tests and crunching numbers to arrive at research-backed management recommendations for pork producers. 

“We had an opportunity to answer a lot of questions for the pork industry,” says Dustin Boler, assistant professor in the animal sciences department at the University of Illinois.

Anna Dilger, an associate professor in the department, explains their approach. “The two main questions were, ‘Can I measure quality in one part of the pig and predict quality in the rest of it?’ And then, ‘What is the true variability in pork quality out there and what’s causing it?’”

The team, which also included U of I graduate students, USDA meat science researchers, and a representative from Smithfield Foods, recently published their findings in five articles.

In the first article, the team looked at correlations between loin quality and quality of the belly and ham from the same pig. In this case, quality was defined mostly by color and tenderness. “Color is what drives whether or not a consumer purchases a particular pork chop. It translates into what we think of as purchase intent. Color is always number one,” Boler says. “After that, we look at whether a product is tender. If it is tender enough, we think that will translate into a repeat purchase.”

Unfortunately, the team found no correlation between loin quality and the quality of other cuts. “Just because a loin has desirable color and is tender doesn’t mean the same animal is going to produce a good belly for bacon or a great ham for a special dinner. It didn’t. Hypothesis one: scratched,” Boler reports.

The remainder of the articles focused on understanding the variability in pork products – how much variability exists, and where it comes from. For example, one of the articles focused on barrows (castrated male pigs) and gilts (young, prebred female pigs).

“We know barrows and gilts are different, but we wanted to know if they differ in how variable they are, or if one produces a more consistent product,” Dilger explains. “You can deal with differences. It’s harder to deal with variability.”

Traits associated with fatness, such as marbling, were more variable in barrows than in gilts, but the sexes varied to approximately the same degree in terms of muscling and lean quality. Based on these results, Dilger says that barrows and gilts probably do not need to be managed differently unless producers are targeting a very specific branded product.

In another article, the researchers admit they had to channel their inner statistics geeks. They looked at every possible aspect of pork quality and tried to pinpoint the major sources of variability in the dataset, from season, production focus, marketing group, and sex to variation within individual animals. In the end, those individual differences accounted for the largest portion of the variability. 

“A lot of factors turn a pig into pork,” Boler notes. “In the pig’s journey from the farm to his ultimate fate, a lot of things happen. Whether he got in an argument with other pigs on the truck, whether he had to walk a long or a short distance, how much rest he was given at the plant, what kind of experience he had during termination, how that carcass was cooled. All these things can independently influence the products derived from that pig.”

Finding that the majority of the variability was within individual pigs and not in any particular management practice is good news for producers.

“It means the things they’re doing to deal with the variability in their environment are just fine. They don’t need to stop doing any of those things,” Dilger says. “There are things in the industry that get picked on. One of those is pigs raised in the summer. People think, ‘Ah, they’re so bad, so slow.’ But no, they’re fine. Gilts get blamed for a lot of things, too, but in the end, they’re fine. We’re not going to get rid of young female pigs or the summer. I believe we’re stuck with those. Understanding the variability and differences allows you to better manage the system.”

The articles discussed here, “Pork loin quality is not indicative of fresh belly or fresh and cured ham quality,” “Comparison of variability in pork carcass composition and quality between barrows and gilts,” and “Characterization of variability in pork carcass composition and primal quality,” are published in the Journal of Animal Science. Two additional articles resulting from the project are also published in the journal. The project was funded by The National Pork Board.

ACES 2017 Funk Award recipients recognized at banquet

Published April 18, 2017
Redbud tree blooming by ACES library

URBANA, Ill. -- Each spring the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) recognizes faculty, staff, and graduate students who have demonstrated outstanding achievements or exceptional service to the college. The recipients are honored at the annual Paul A. Funk Recognition Awards Banquet. This year, the banquet was held Monday, April 17, at Pear Tree Estate in rural Champaign, Ill.

The awards program was established in 1970 by the Paul A. Funk Foundation of Bloomington, Ill., as a memorial to the late Paul A. Funk, who attended the college as a member of the class of 1929 and devoted his life to agriculture.

The following is a list of this year’s award recipients:


Keith Cadwallader, Food Science & Human Nutrition

Yuanhui Zhang, Agricultural & Biological Engineering


Madhu Khanna, Agricultural & Consumer Economics


Richard Gates, Agricultural & Biological Engineering

TEAM AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE Food Bioprocessing Innovations Team:

Leslie Alexander, Food Science & Human Nutrition

Bruce Branham, Crop Sciences

Nicki Engeseth, Food Science & Human Nutrition

Hao Feng, Food Science & Human Nutrition

Brian Jacobson, Food Science & Human Nutrition

Youngsoo Lee, Food Science & Human Nutrition

Matt Smith, ACES Administration

Pawan Takhar, Food Science & Human Nutrition

Marla Todd, Information Technology & Communication Services


Senior - Jennifer Hardesty, Human Development & Family Studies

College - David Rosch, Agricultural Education                                     


Senior - Hans Stein, Animal Sciences

College - Michael Ward, Natural Resources & Environmental Sciences


Senior - Paul McNamara, Agricultural & Consumer Economics


Nicholas Paulson, Agricultural & Consumer Economics   


Robert Hughes, Jr., Human Development & Family Studies


Leon Corzine – B.S. ’72 Ag Engineering of Assumption, IL

Robert Easter – Ph.D. ’76 Animal Sciences of Mahomet, IL

John McNamara – B.S. ’76 Ag Sciences, M.S. ’78 Dairy Science of Pullman, WA

Keith Parr – B.S. ’78 Ag Sciences of Elmhurst, IL

Robert Wyffels – B.S. 77 Crop Science of Geneseo, IL


Sarai Coba-Rodriguez, Human Development & Family Studies    

Brett Loman, Division of Nutritional Sciences


Ph.D. - Jaclyn Saltzman, Human Development & Family Studies

M.S. - Kelly Hannan, Natural Resources & Environmental Sciences


Justine Karduck, Food Science & Human Nutrition


Melissa Warmbier, Agricultural & Consumer Economics


Lauren Redman, Animal Sciences


Sustained Excellence—Advising, Teaching and Outreach

Robert Petrea, Agricultural & Biological Engineering        

Sustained Excellence—Research

James Hartman, Food Science & Human Nutrition

Sustained Excellence—Administrative/Management or Technical Contributions

Darcy Meents, Human Development & Family Studies

Excellence—Innovation and Creativity

Kathryn Partlow, ACES Administration




ACES Town Hall and Reception with Dean Kidwell

2:00 PM - 3:30 PM
Monsanto Room, ACES Library, Information & Alumni Center

Join us for an open discussion about how we are going to adaptively manage forward to strengthen the foundation of the College of ACES. The following topics will be included in the discussion:

  • Six-month progress report
  • Implementation strategies for expanding our funding base
  • Framing Extension 3.0

You are invited to enrich the conversation by asking questions and/or providing input during the discussion. This is your opportunity to share your ideas and perspectives of important initiatives.  

The Town Hall is open to all ACES faculty, staff, students and alumni. Seating is limited. The event will be livestreamed. You may watch the livestream or join the event via Skype for Business. More details coming soon.

A reception will follow the ACES Town Hall in the Heritage Room from 3:30-4:30 p.m.

First female dean leads the College of ACES at the University of Illinois

Published November 1, 2016

URBANA – The University of Illinois is making history today as Dr. Kimberlee Kidwell begins her role as the first female dean in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES). Kidwell, a nationally respected scholar and award-winning teacher and administrator, holds the inaugural Robert A. Easter Chair.

“It is surreal to have an opportunity to co-create the next era of excellence in the college with the ACES community at my alma mater,” said Kidwell, who received her bachelor’s degrees from the College of ACES in genetics and development and agriculture science. “It is a privilege to be able to create opportunities of a lifetime for people at the university that provided those types of opportunities for me.” 

Kidwell is an accomplished wheat breeder and geneticist with multiple patented discoveries addressing basic questions involving gene discovery, genetic characterization, and genetic mapping of important traits for wheat improvement. She also released more than 20 wheat varieties for commercial production.

“Dean Kidwell’s combination of scholarly success, teaching excellence, and academic leadership made her the clear top candidate in a very competitive national search. She will be a strong leader for the college and will help move the university forward as well. I am delighted to welcome her to our Illinois leadership team,” said Ed Feser, Interim Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Kidwell’s leadership style is defined by her dedication to improving student learning; driving sound, innovative research; and cultivating industry partnerships to improve the lives and livelihoods of the residents of Illinois, in support of the land-grant mission of the University of Illinois.

“It’s important to me to land on a common purpose with the ACES community so we can clearly articulate what we do and why it matters to people,” Kidwell said. “I am land-grant­-loyal to the core. ACES research translates directly to improving the quality of people's lives. We also are teaching the next generation of change agents in our disciplines by integrating transformational learning opportunities into their academic experiences.”

In her previous role as executive associate dean of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University, Kidwell spearheaded the development of the new Center for Transformational Learning and Leadership, a student, faculty, alumni, and industry partner collaboration which provides beyond-the-classroom experiences for students and leadership development for graduate students, faculty, staff, and professionals.

“Students are the lifeblood of the college,” Kidwell said. “Everything we do should fuel the student learning experience be it in classrooms, research laboratories, communities, or industry experiences. Faculty and staff are the heartbeat of the institution. Everything that happens in the college sources from the efforts of these hardworking, dedicated people.”

She grew up in Danville, Illinois. After graduating from the U of I, she went on to obtain her master’s and Ph.D. degrees in plant breeding and plant genetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Kidwell will succeed ACES Dean Robert Hauser, who has served in that role since 2010. He was interim dean of ACES for a year prior to that, and served two terms as head of the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics from 1995 to 2001 and from 2004 to 2009.

Hauser has developed and led exceptional U of I Extension programs, taught several undergraduate and graduate courses since he joined the faculty in 1982, and received numerous research and Extension awards. After providing 35 years of excellent service to the college and university, Hauser intends to retire December 31, 2016.


Spring Break

All Day Event

ACES Faculty Retreat

8:30 AM - 1:00 PM
iHotel and Conference Center, 1900 S 1st St, Champaign, IL 61820

ACES New Faculty Orientation

All Day Event

Join the College of ACES in welcoming the newest additions to the ACES faculty lineup.

Kidwell named College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences dean

Published July 15, 2016
Kimberlee Kae Kidwell
Kimberlee Kae Kidwell Photo: Courtesy of Washington State University

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Kimberlee Kae Kidwell will serve as the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences effective Nov. 1, pending approval by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees.

Currently the executive associate dean of the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University – a diverse college with 15 reporting units ranging from apparel, merchandising, design and textiles to biological systems engineering – Kidwell is a nationally respected scholar of plant breeding and genetics. She served as the college’s acting dean in 2015-16.  

At Illinois, she also will hold the inaugural Robert A. Easter Chair.

“Professor Kidwell has excellent scholarly credentials, leadership experience and management skills,” said Edward Feser, interim provost at Illinois. “She has demonstrated a passion for students and teaching throughout her career, and she has developed her own leadership skills training program, which she plans to relocate to Illinois in partnership with WSU.

“From the exceptional quality of her extensive interactions with campus representatives throughout the search process, it’s clear that she will be an outstanding leader of ACES.”

Kidwell earned two bachelor’s degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, as well as master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She joined the Washington State faculty in 1994.

Kidwell will succeed ACES Dean Robert Hauser, who has served in that role since 2010. He was interim dean of ACES for a year prior to that, and also served two terms as head of the department of agricultural and consumer economics, from 1995 to 2001 and from 2004 to 2009.

Hauser has developed and led exceptional U. of I. Extension programs, taught several undergraduate and graduate courses since he joined the faculty in 1982, and received numerous research and Extension awards.

“Dean Hauser has been a tireless advocate for the faculty, students and staff of ACES and a respected ambassador for its programs and achievements across Illinois and the U.S.,” Feser said.


News Source:

Robin Kaler, 217-333-5010

Salute to Ag Day

All Day Event
To Be Announced

The College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) invites you to attend Salute to Agriculture Day at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on Saturday, September 10. Prior to watching the Illini take on North Carolina, we invite you to enjoy a tailgate including a short program hosted by Orion Samuelson followed by an auction. More information can be found at


December Graduation Ceremony

5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Krannert Center

To request disability-related accommodations for this event, please contact the ACES Special Events Office at 217-333-2728.