Kate Miller had a 9 a.m. meeting to sample and discuss bacon. It’s easy to be jealous of such a gig, but it’s difficult to not like the high-heels clad, blond-haired Miller. Known as The Meat Lady on her blog, Miller entered the meat industry several years ago and is in direct sales in Houston, Texas, for Martin Preferred Meats.
Despite more women entering the livestock industry, the meat business remains rather male-dominated. She will admit that being a woman in the industry isn’t easy but you won’t find her complaining.
“With five years of experience under my belt, I still have to prove that I’m right and overcome some skepticism,” she said. “People think, ‘Why is this girl wearing high heels telling me about my beef? Shouldn’t I trust the man in the cowboy boots sitting next to her more?’”
Many of Miller’s relationships with customers began with skepticism, but she was able to cultivate a partnership through her knowledge of the industry — the follow through, she admits, must be flawless, and include a fair amount of moxie and tenacity. Collegiate livestock judging, Miller said, prepared her for working in the male-dominated meat industry. Miller judged at Connors State and later for Oklahoma State University.
“Being able to defend your point of view and give reasons even when you know they’re flawed is helpful,” she said. Judging also thickened Miller’s skin, leaving her nearly unflappable when the volume and intensity of constructive criticism rises.
Miller grew up around the livestock business, her family raised hogs on contract for Cargill as well as about 200 cow calf pairs in southern Arkansas. Her father earned his PhD in ruminant nutrition and laid the foundation for understanding the science behind production. Though it was invaluable, his feeding methods never translated to the show ring. Miller showed cattle enthusiastically and poorly for a number of years, further building her character.
“I stood last at every show we ever attended,” she laughed. “Dad loved EPD cattle so I never showed with any amount of success.” Despite initially having little clue exactly what she wanted to do outside of a career relating to the beef industry and then lucking into the meat industry, Miller says it’s a perfect fit.
“I get to be in a professional environment, I get to cook all day, and I get to teach people about where their food comes from,” she said. “To me there’s not a better job. It’s a dream job.”
“With five years of experience under my belt, I still have to prove that I’m right and overcome some skepticism. People think, ‘Why is this girl wearing high heels telling me about my beef? Shouldn’t I trust the man in the cowboy boots sitting next to her more?’”
Miller’s current position working with distributors has heavily involved her in sourcing and labeling and has naturally led to an active role as an educator.
“I enjoy teaching people about where their food comes from and there is a void in our industry,” she said. “We as an industry do a terrible job of explaining the science behind production.”
This has proven itself over and again as Miller has been quizzed across the gamut about whether beef is GMO, why sodium citrate is used in fajita meat, and why some meats can or cannot be labeled one way or another.
“My generation, the Millennials, are going to have to take an active role in explaining to the non-science public why we do the things we do,” she said.
Social media can be a first step though she warns we can help ourselves or hurt ourselves as producers through what is posted online as information published online is immortal.
“Tell the truth in a respectful manner,” she said. “We need to tell the positive stories and focus on being caretakers and insisting upon quality.”
Miller began blogging in college about her shenanigans much to the delight of her friends. Years later, Miller’s marriage ended and she found herself once again writing about her life on a blog.
“There was a void there as far as people in my age group who were experiencing that same thing,” she said. “The more I talked to people, the more I realized what I had gone through, everybody was kind of going through. It was an opportunity to do some external processing and to give people in my life validity for the things they were feeling.”
The blog also serves as a way to keep friends and family updated as well as connecting with other readers. Miller’s blog, The Meat Lady, takes a candid look at life experiences from the perspective of a funny young woman wearing high heels and selling meat. There are few like it.
Kate Miller’s The Meat Lady blog can be found at themeatlady.com.