CHANGE – Spelled Differently

My love for animals has been the driver of my career path for as long as I can remember.  I remember sitting inside the farrowing crate with the newborn piglets, adopting stray cats with one leg, loving every dog I saw and truly thought I deserved to have a monkey, but settled for a stuffed Curious George.


I graduated from SDSU (Go Jacks!) with a B.S. degree in Animal Science.  I have been extremely fortunate as my career allowed me to work with livestock producers that share the same passions I do in regards to raising and caring for animals.   I’ve had roles in different departments, changed species from Pork to Turkey, worked with producers raising livestock in conventional to high animal welfare systems and currently transitioned into frozen inventory management.  These opportunities all have one thing in common which is the word CHANGE.  Any change, personal or professional can cause stress, fear and frustration, but I now see it as a chance to discover your strengths, make a difference and enjoy the journey.

Three experiences that influenced my outlook on CHANGE:

  • Female Hog Buyer

In the early 1990’s, I was one of the first, of two female hog buyers hired by a major marketer of food and meat products, Hormel Foods.   My new role created a lot of questions and comments; “You’re a what?”, “What’s a girl doing working in the middle of these hogs?”, “How did you get into this field and why?”  I was raised in a family where we all were expected to work hard and do the same chores whether that involved washing dishes inside or helping with pig chores outside.  I didn’t realize it made a difference if I was a male or female hog buyer and was going to continue working hard, doing what I enjoyed.   I didn’t feel as though I needed to change what others thought about me being in this role but I did prove that I could do the job, wearing bib overalls and a smile.

Be You, Be Honest, Be Humble


  • Animal Welfare

This topic has been responsible for major changes in the way we raise livestock today and shaped my outlook on how to assist others in our industry.  In the early 2000’s I had the opportunity to listen to Temple Grandin, who is considered the world’s leading expert on welfare of cattle and pigs.  She explained how animals think, why they react, how we can reduce their fears during moving and handling and shared ideas for facility design changes which could improve the humane handling of animals.   The livestock industry now has in place several programs and audits to ensure livestock are raised and transported humanely.   I have been involved in making plant and farm visits to turkey and pork facilities, ensuring those programs were implemented and management changes were made.  The word “audit” instills almost as much fear as the word “change” does and people are not thrilled to see you.   I found if you are willing to work alongside producers and employees, help them adapt, be a resource and offer training, the negative “change” becomes progress and leads to success.

Be Helpful, Be Empathetic, Be a Leader


  • Growth

We have all heard the saying, “change is good” whether it was your parents trying to persuade you to change by putting mustard on your hot dog or your company is reorganizing your job responsibilities and you can see revisions coming.   Change is often associated with uncertainty, negativity and frustration.   You can choose to stay in your comfort zone and stick with the status quo or choose to embrace new opportunities and grow personally and professionally.  The word choose is key, as you have a choice on how you are going to ride the waves of change.  If you stay open to new possibilities, you may see opportunities that allow you to challenge yourself, stretch your goals, learn new skills and achieve more than you ever imagined.   I previously mentioned I changed positions which involved going from my “comfort zone” of pork to unfamiliar territory, turkeys.   I did not know anything about turkeys, except I preferred white meat to dark meat and knew which part of the body that came from.  I found myself asking questions from farm managers and supervisors, riding with company veterinarians and nutritionists and making many visits to hatcheries to understand where it all begins.  It was humbling starting out in a new role where I was not 100% confident in what I was doing and I quickly realized this was going to be a challenge.  I chose to learn all I possibly could from others, overcome the hurdles in front of me, stay positive and embrace the situation.

Be Determined, Be Enthusiastic, Be Appreciative


I prefer to spell Change as O-P-P-O-R-T-U-N-I-T-Y.  Opportunities allow you a chance to gamble, ask “what’s next?”, bring value to your role and attain what you thought was impossible.   You will have a much greater chance of achieving success in your personal and professional life if you embrace and enjoy all the opportunities that come your way!


Shelly Mikel

Shelly Mikel is current member Casey’s mother. She resides with her family in South Haven, MN.

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