Women in Agriculture: Jenny Katool
From developing innovative products to crafting delicious recipes, Sanderson Farms’ product development manager, Jenny Katool, is passionate about working in agriculture and has been ever since she joined the company over 35 years ago. Unlike most employees, Katool began her career with the company when the further processing facility she was working for was acquired by Sanderson Farms in 1986.
“You could say Sanderson Farms inherited me, and it was the best thing that could have happened to us here at the foods division,” said Katool. “We all knew about Sanderson Farms because their chicken was a staple on our dinner tables. What we didn’t know and quickly discovered, was how Sanderson Farms acted with integrity. They are honest, transparent and committed to doing what is best not only for their customers, but for us, their employees.”
Prior to joining the team at Sanderson Farms, Katool had over eight years of experience in the industry, giving her a combined tenure of over 43 years working in agriculture. During that time, she has witnessed women play increasing roles in the success of the industry.
“As more women have entered the workforce in the agriculture industry, they have been successful in building and leading teams,” said Katool. “These women are curious, always looking below the surface, and have exceptional communication skills. They keep it simple, stay on task and make sound decisions.”
Beginning her career as a food technologist, Katool’s role as a female team leader has also evolved over the last three and a half decades thanks to a commitment to quality, nutritious and affordable chicken products. Whether it’s fried chicken, chicken salad or a hearty bowl of chicken noodle soup, Sanderson Farms has a tried and true chicken recipe for each and every one of its consumers’ culinary preferences.
Baked, fried or smothered, all of the inspiration and vision behind these culinary chicken creations was hatched in the minds of Katool and her creative product development team, responsible for product development, recipe preparation and taste testing at Sanderson Farms. Each new company recipe is born by way of an arduous creation process consisting of recipe conception, tasting, testing, testing and more testing.
“Making sure our recipes taste great, are quick and easy to prepare, nutritious and affordable is central to our recipe development process,” said Katool. “We want to spark consumers’ curiosity to try our recipes and have it become their ‘go-to’ chicken recipe.”
Similar to the company’s testing process for recipes, developing a new product starts with prototype development in the test kitchen. Products are developed with several factors in mind including viability of producing the product in the plant, availability of ingredients, cost parameters of the product, nutritional value and product packaging. A cross-functional team of production, quality control, purchasing and accounting all work collaboratively to weigh all the factors and develop the highest quality and most innovative products possible.
“On any given day, we could be working on anything from running a new product in the plant to developing a recipe for our website or setting up a label for production,” said Katool. “The most exciting aspect of my job is developing a new product from concept to development and having the opportunity to watch that product being produced to seeing it in the grocery store or served in a restaurant.”
To continue honing her professional skills, Katool is an active member of the Institute of Food Technologists, International Association of Culinary Professionals and the Southern Foodways Alliance. “The poultry industry is constantly changing, so you need to be a lifelong learner,” said Katool. “Every day, I am inspired by the women that I work with and their commitment to learning and perfecting their craft. They are true leaders in the way they do their work, the questions they ask, and the pride they take in their work.”