We Are Agriculture is a year-long series that will highlight the hard-work done by employees across the Department of Agriculture. Matthew Groce, Meat & Poultry Division Inspector, is one of those employees. Stay tuned each Wednesday here on the blog or any of our social media accounts and join us in honoring those who continue to drive our state’s agriculture industry forward each day!
The agriculture industry is often a family affair where children learn the trade from their parents. Although Matthew Groce, Meat & Poultry Division Inspector, grew up surrounded by agriculture in Western N.C., it was his grandfather who truly sparked his passion and love for the lifestyle. “My grandfather retired from the Meat & Poultry Division and I have a lot of fond memories from him working there and telling us stories from his job that led me to follow in his footsteps,” Matthew said.
Before taking his job with the Meat & Poultry Division in 2011, Matthew worked with an outside agriculture industry producer learning both sides of the meat business. “It was an experience that truly helped me grow in my education of both sides of the industry,” he said. “Growing up hearing stories from my grandfather gave me a well-rounded education of how I would help the consumers and industry workers through a role with Meat & Poultry, but actually working with one of these companies gave me inside knowledge as to how the industry works and functions on a daily basis.” That hands-on experience in the industry gave him a lot of expertise, wisdom and passion that fuels his career with the Meat & Poultry Division today.
The Meat & Poultry Inspection Division is sectioned off into different areas of the state. Matthew is an inspector in area nine. On a daily basis, he is responsible for enforcing state and federal laws that are designed to ensure that meat and poultry products sold to consumers are wholesome, unadulterated and properly labeled for four facilities in his region. “We start on the slaughter side of meat processing facilities and work all the way through the system, including the packing facilities,” he said. If/when he comes across product that is adulterated, insanitary or is deemed unsafe for consumers, Matthew is the first line of protection for consumers in tagging that equipment or product and removing it from shelves. “Knowing that I have an impact both on the farmers and members of the community gives me a huge sense of pride,” he said, “because not only do I have the opportunity to work with some amazing professionals across our state’s number one industry, but I am also responsible for protecting members of the community, including my own friends and family, from products that could potentially harm them.” Matthew, however, reiterated, “I work with some of the best people and facilities in the business,” he said. “They not only work hard to produce a high-quality product for themselves, but always keep customer satisfaction and safety as top priorities.”
Although he loves his role for many reasons, Matthew’s favorite part of the job is inspecting different establishments and meeting people across the industry. “Sometimes we have the opportunity to inspect facilities outside of our normal patrols for a variety of reasons and I always love getting to do that,” he said. “A lot of these people have become friends of mine and I like getting to see and help them on a regular basis.” Matthew also appreciates the fact that his job is constantly moving and evolving, providing him with the opportunity to get out and explore the industry that he loves.
The past two years have proved a challenge for Matthew and his team due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “As many people may remember, there was a huge meat shortage throughout the pandemic that really put a high demand and priority on my job,” he said. “It also made it challenging to get out and do parts of the job because I had to be more cautious when dealing with individuals in-person.” What do you do when the world goes virtual but your job relies on in-person relationships and work? “You carry on and do the best you can despite the situation,” Matthew said. “I have become incredibly proud of the team that I’ve worked with throughout these last two years because we all have stepped up to get the job done. We still provided inspections daily and, because of that, our facilities were able to provide products to their consumers despite the struggles presented by the pandemic.”
When he is not at work, Matthew serves as a volunteer firefighter in his community at the Pleasant Hill Volunteer Fire and Rescue. He also enjoys working on cars, especially his 1950 Chevy pickup truck, and spending time outdoors with his wife and two kids.
Join us in thanking Matthew and his team for their hard work every day ensuring customers have access to high-quality meat products!