Ross Jabaay is the Senior Director, Food Safety and Quality, for Burke Corporation of Nevada, IA, a manufacturer and marketer of pizza-toppings and other fully-cooked meat products now owned by Hormel Foods. A native of Jasper County, Jabaay graduated from Purdue University with a B.S. in 1968 in Animal Science. He received his M.S. from Purdue in 1973, also in Animal Science with a concentration in meat science.
Jabaay is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, serving with the Veterinary Food Inspection Division. Upon completion of his master’s degree in 1973, he began his distinguished career in meat science as a quality engineer with Hormel Foods in Austin, MN. Jabaay moved to Farmland Foods, Inc. in Kansas City and during 11 years there established the Technical Service Function that combined Research and Development, Quality Control, Regulatory Affairs and Consumer Services. Career moves took him to Sugardale Foods, Canton, OH (1985-87) and Henry House, Inc./Tyson Foods, Inc., Springdale, AR (1987-95). At Henry House/Tyson, Jabaay was Director, Technical Services and Director, Beef and Pork Research and led initiatives to consolidate R & D teams from Tyson’s corporate acquisitions, and he organized and led projects teams to comply with the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act that had been passed as a new national standard in 1990. From 1995-2001 he was Director, Product Design and Quality for FreshMark, Inc. in Canton, OH where he initiated new product lines that added $5M in annual sales and three new lines of business to the company, and he implemented major plant expansions. He created a corporate food safety advisory board for FreshMark that included experts representing many aspects of food safety. Since 2001 Jabaay has been in his current role at Burke, which was acquired by Hormel in 2007. During his tenure at Burke, bioterrorism and food safety concerns have given rise to several major new federal laws with tremendous impact on food producers and manufacturers. Jabaay has been responsible for implementing Burke’s compliance with these new laws and has proactively implemented several new processes (temperature monitoring, database reporting for microbiological and temperature test results, metals database for identifying source of minute contaminants, and a quality performance database for better management of quality complaints) that enhance Burke’s quality and safety assurance programs.
Jabaay has an extensive record of service to the American Meat Science Association (AMSA) throughout his career, serving on numerous committees and authoring educational materials. Twice he has chaired the Meat Industry Research Conference. Other professional memberships and leadership positions include: Institute of Food Technologists (Chair-Elect, Iowa Section 2006-07, Chair, 2007-08, led industry scholarship drive resulting in three awards), American Meat Institute (Scientific Affairs Advisory (since 1977), Inspection Policy, Processed Meats, Convention Planning and Food Security Working Group committees); International Association of Food Protection; and American Society for Quality.
Jabaay’s civic and volunteer activities include serving as an ordained deacon in the Presbyterian Church. Since 2002 he has been an active volunteer at the Living History Farms in Des Moines where he has built authentic tools, researched pioneer meat processing techniques, and written a history of Walnut Hill Shorthorn cattle herd in order to recreate the herd books and the cattle activities of the 1800s. He has served as board member, vice president (2006) and president (2007) of the Purdue Club of Central Iowa. With Jabaay’s leadership, the club raised fund to award eight scholarships and achieved Gold Recognition Status from the Purdue Alumni Association during his leadership. He led the club’s effort to participate in the World Food Prize ceremonies in 2007 when Purdue’s Phil Nelson received the prize and hosted Dr. Nelson for a club activity.
Jabaay’s achievements have been recognized with many honors, including: President’s Award, Henry House Inc. (1989); Meat Processing Award, American Meat Science Association (1999); and Iowa Section Outstanding Leadership Award, IFT (2007-09). In 2003 the United Way of Central Iowa presented him with its Exceptional Volunteer Service recognition, in honor of his work with the Living History Farms.