March 1, 2017
Writer: Dale Spaulding

Do you find yourself critiquing the dishes you're served at restaurants? What about the preparation, the flavor combinations, or how appealing the food is to eat?

If you study in the Food Sciences major at BYU-Idaho, you think similarly, but less for taste or appearances, and more for function, quality, texture and shelf-life.

"Food science also prepares food for consumption, but it handles everything that happens between the farm and the last consumer preparation."

Neal Ricks is a faculty member in the Animal and Food Sciences Department at BYU-Idaho. He teaches Food Engineering. I decided I'd sit in with one of his Food Engineering classes. The class was discussing the natural transfer of heat between objects, and using this transfer to process food. In layman's terms, they were talking about how to make hot milk pasteurize itself.

It seems even the students in the class are stretched by the material. When I asked the teacher if I could stay during his class, his students piped up with "Prepare to be confused," and "If you can understand this, let us know." 

Pasteurizing milk is just the beginning. Students in this major also learn about storage of food, both in the factory and the home, getting food from the fields to the trucks and factories without damaging the products, and product development. In layman's terms, these students will be holding classes for taste-testing. 

"Companies are always interested in finding out what do consumers like better."

"Food Engineering" is an upper-level class that pulls from disciplines like chemistry, physics, calculus, and microbiology. But don't let that scare you. If you're wondering if the Food Sciences major is right for you, you can still join the "Intro to Food Science" course, also taught by Ricks. You can visit their website here.