Dale L. Huffman
Huffman was born on a livestock farm near Churchville, Virginia, the fourth of seven children. He grew up on a dairy farm in central New York state. After graduating from high school, Huffman continued a family tradition by attending Bridgewater College in Virginia, but Huffman’s college education was put on hold his sophomore year when he joined the U.S. Air Force. Huffman served as an instructor in Cheyenne, Wyoming until deployment for one year during the Korean War. In 1956, Huffman married Jo-Ann Johnson, was discharged from the Air Force and enrolled at Cornell University. At Cornell, he became a member of the meat judging team and received his bachelor’s degree in animal science in 1959. Huffman subsequently attended the University of Florida where he received his master’s and his doctorate degrees in meat and animal science in 1960 and 1962, respectively.
While working for Swift and Company’s Research and Development Center in Chicago, Huffman was part of the research team that received the Food Technology Industrial Achievement Award for antemortem technology to improve the tenderness of beef cattle. Huffman left Swift in 1963 to join the faculty at Auburn University, and in 1969, Huffman returned to Chicago for one year to pursue a fellowship with Armour and Company. Upon his return to Auburn, he directed a graduate-level research project on reconstructed beef which yielded two patents for new beef and pork products and the development of the McRib sandwich marketed by McDonald’s.
During the early 1990s, Huffman led another student research team to a breakthrough in lean beef technology–AU Lean, a line of meat containing about 45 percent less fat and 23 percent fewer calories than traditional ground beef. This product was nationally introduced by McDonald’s as the McLean Deluxe and was available in Disney theme parks, school cafeterias, and grocery stores. Huffman went on to develop reduced fat sausage which contained 15 percent fat compared to 40 percent fat in regular sausage. AU Lean brought Huffman a number of awards and recognitions including Man of the Year in Service to Agriculture by the Alabama Farmers Federation and by “The Progressive Farmer” magazine. For the second time in Huffman’s career, he was awarded the Food Technology Industrial Achievement Award by the Institute of Food Technologists. Additionally, he was inducted into the Alabama Livestock Hall of Fame and was the recipient of the 2006 American Meat Science Association R.C. Pollock Award.
During his 32-year tenure at Auburn, Huffman taught undergraduate and graduate level courses, led numerous student research teams and served as the director of the Food Technology Institute. He also authored or coauthored more than 300 scientific and popular publications and is a former president of the American Meat Science Association. While Huffman is known for his research activities, he says the most rewarding aspect of his career has been seeing former students become successful and make their marks on the food industry.
Huffman retired from Auburn in 1995 but was not ready to quit working. He and his son established a private consulting firm and went to work for Keystone Foods, McDonald’s largest meat supplier. Huffman retired a second time in 2004 but once again did not lose momentum. Today, Huffman spends his time volunteering and serving on the board at Storybook Farms which specializes in therapeutic horseback riding for special needs children. He also serves on the East Alabama Food Bank board and is active in Rotary International. He is past president of the Lee County Sunrise Rotary Club.
Huffman and wife Jo-Ann live in Auburn and have three children– Shari, Randy, and Emily– and four grandchildren.