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WHEN Natalie Bell attended her first Inter-Collegiate Meat Judging event, she never expected it would one day alter her career path.
“I never imagined at the time that I would be where I am now,” the meat-processing key account manager said.
As an agricultural science student at Sydney University in 2018, Natalie put up her hand to be part of the university’s meat judging team and attended her first ICMJ National Conference and competition in Wagga Wagga.
“The skills that participants learn without even realising it are amazing,” she said.
“It definitely provides a network early on because you meet so many students who you’ll cross paths with in the future.”
At the competition, Natalie was selected for ICMJ’s Industry Development Week where participants get a unique opportunity to see behind the scenes of some of the industry’s biggest operations such as Australian Country Choice processing facilities in Brisbane, Sunpork’s Swickers Pork Processing Plant, NH Foods’ Oakey Beef plant and the Australian Agricultural Co’s head office.
“I’m extremely grateful that I got to go on that trip,” Natalie said.
“I got to see people’s offices and the facilities they work in – getting a glimpse into what it is like to work in the industry on a day-to-day basis.”
ICMJ’s Industry Development Week also includes professional development workshops and opportunities for students to network with red meat industry leaders, supporting ICMJ’s mission to inspire and develop future professionals in the global red meat industry.
After graduating university, Natalie initially took up a role as a seed agronomist, but it wasn’t long before her ICMJ experience guided her back to the meat industry.
After learning about a job opportunity through a friend, Natalie applied for a role with Rivalea – a pork processing company based in the New South Wales Riverina region.
“I was already very interested in beef, but if I hadn’t actually drilled down into pork carcases as part of the ICMJ experience, then there’s no way I would have considered this role,” she said.
“The ICMJ program really opens your mind and broadens your horizons to thinking about other proteins,” she said.
Natalie said being an ICMJ alumni also helped her land her job with Rivalea.
“I think it gives employers confidence that you not only have the knowledge, but you are also genuinely motivated to be part of the meat industry,” she said.
“I came down and did a tour through the Rivalea processing facility but because I had done that through ICMJ, I already had that background knowledge before I even started.
“If you already know about pork primals or any protein primals, it just gives you such a leg up and helps you hit the ground running.”
In her original role as a regional business development manager with Rivalea, Natalie spent four days a week travelling to rural butcher shops throughout New South Wales and Victoria.
After eight months, she progressed to a key account manager role and now works to get Rivalea pork products on the shelves of one of Australia’s largest supermarket retailers.
In 2022, Natalie returned to the ICMJ National Conference in Wagga Wagga for the Careers Expo to showcase the career opportunities available at Rivalea and recruit graduates into their workforce.
“I’m really excited to be on the other side,” she said.
Natalie described ICMJ’s role in attracting talented young professionals to a career in the meat industry as “pivotal”.
“I think the key is that ICMJ directs people to the wider industry – it’s never just one branch of one area, the program is so broad. It helps you to realise there are possibilities you haven’t even thought of – that’s what ICMJ does best.”
Through a program of annual events, ICMJ inspires and develops future professionals in the global red meat industry.
- ICMJ is supported by Meat & Livestock Australia, Australian Meat Processor Corporation and a range of industry sponsors.