Meet Jason McAlister: Director of Animal Welfare at Triumph Foods . He is also known as “The Pig Whisperer” to many in the industry. He started his career at a small local locker plant in Iowa and since then, has climbed the ladder to attain his role that he has today. Jason talks about how he got to where he is now and how to get started in the Animal Welfare industry.
What is your title and how long have you worked in your field?
My title is Director of Animal Welfare at Triumph Foods in St. Joseph, Missouri. I have been in the live harvest field since 1993 starting in a local locker plant in Gilbertville, Iowa to IBP and Tyson. I was recruited by Triumph Foods in 2007.
What made you want to become a Director of Animal Welfare?
I have a passion for learning and passing my knowledge on to those around me. Leadership is a family trait; my Grandfather was a General Foreman for Firestone Tires. My father and mother both were managers and naturally I do the same. I think this is where my passion for training others comes from.
What is a day in the life like for you?
The majority of my day is consumed with problem solving and interacting/training my employees. I start each day in the barns visiting with each employee followed by staff meetings and visiting support areas. I like to be seen in each department daily (HR, the clinic, employment, and accounting). Visits with these folks is sometimes required but mostly it is just team/relationship building when you depend on these teams to be successful it is important that they know you care about their needs and don’t just come around when you need something.
The rest of my day includes attending any other meetings, dealing with new hire requests and HR issues. I always find time each day to listen to employee’s problems and offer a shoulder to cry on. Coaching and mentoring young managers throughout the day is always a priority.
What skills do you think that someone should possess to become an Animal Welfare Manager?
Someone should possess patience, strong leadership skills and a wide knowledge base.
Total understanding of the process in which you are working is very important. “You can’t skip steps if you use the cheat code you will never have the skills needed to complete the level”. You also need humility and trust, (the people around you have value and bring value, a good leader values their team, listens to understand and gives credit where it belongs).
If you were talking to someone who wanted to be in the Animal Welfare industry, what kinds of special training would tell him or her they need?
A good pair of boots, a lot of humility, desire and passion. Good things take time! Get in the barn.
What do you enjoy about being in your role?
Teaching others is the best part of what I do. I love to spend time with the animals but when I am teaching my craft to others I am happiest.
What are the challenges of your job and the not-so-fun parts that people wouldn’t expect?
Not everyone who comes to work is part of the team or good for business both dealing with those folks and the trouble they bring would be my least favorite part of the job.
What would surprise someone to know about your job?
You can’t trudge through it. You either love this work or you don’t but if you don’t it will show, people will not follow a leader who hasn’t won their trust. You don’t have to like your leader but you have trust them. Those that try and force leadership roles are the leaders that people run away from. I am passionate about leadership not from a sense of power over others but as a duty to others. Leadership is a service role not a dictatorship.
What advice do you have for aspiring Animal Welfare?
Take your time in learning from the best, toss out the rest and enjoy the ride it’s a life goal not a 100 meter dash. Always take every opportunity you get to learn no matter how simple it seems. All knowledge has worth, collect it like it was gold.
Find roles in animal welfare, animal science, and animal health on AgCareers.com.