These are the women turning the traditionally male-dominated world of meat on its head

Rachel Griffiths

Rachel Griffiths

Chief commercial officer, Pilgrim’s UK

Griffiths leads pork giant Pilgrim’s UK’s commercial operations on a day-to-day basis. She was previously MD at its subsidiary Dalehead Foods, where she was responsible for commercial and financial performance. Griffiths also spent five years with sister company Moy Park as a customer director and boasts an extensive career, having worked at ABP UK for eight years. She began her career in Waitrose’s buying team in 1995.


Penny Tomlinson_0001

Penny Tomlinson

MD, Fairfax Meadow Europe

Tomlinson has led the catering butcher and foodservice specialist since 2012, having been sales director since 2002.

With over 30 years’ experience, she is an active committee member of Meat Business Women and regularly mentors female talent “of all ages”. She insists the industry requires more “male allies” to further tackle gender inequality.


Beth Hart

Beth Hart

VP supply chain & brand, McDonald’s UK

Hart has worked in her current role since April 2020, having joined McDonald’s UK in November 2018. With over 25 years’ experience in food and drink, she is responsible for managing the UK and Ireland supply chain and its Brand Trust Strategy. At McDonald’s, she has worked with farming organisations to attract new and diverse talent, and has invested in seeking to empower farmers to hit their net zero targets.


Ursula Lavery

Ursula Lavery

Technical & R&D director, Moy Park

Lavery joined Moy Park in 1987 with a degree in food science. She moved into technical and quality management the following year, was appointed to its executive board as technical director (Europe) in 2013 and took on her existing role in 2018. She is described as a “leading authority” on food safety, sitting on several advisory bodies, including the FSA. She was appointed an MBE in the King’s New Years’ Honours List in January.


Karen O’Connor

Karen O’Connor

Meat, fish and poultry category director, Sainsbury’s

A relative newcomer to the meat sector, O’Connor took on her role at Sainsbury’s in June 2021, just as the aftermaths of both Covid and Brexit were becoming apparent. She has focused on creating long-term supplier partnerships, and generating points of difference for the retailer through a sustainability-led approach, via initiatives such as its move to a vacuum-pack format for mince and lower stocking densities for chicken.


Helen Sisson_0001

Helen Sisson

Technical director, 2 Sisters Food Group

With more than 30 years’ experience in meat and poultry, Sisson joined 2 Sisters in 2019 as group technical director, where she leads the poultry giant’s technical, health & safety, sustainability and agriculture functions.

She was also directly involved in the establishment of the Food Industry Intelligence Network (FIIN), of which she is a director and co-chair, and a member of the newly formed Industry Food Fraud working group.


Jackie Carter

Jackie Carter

Group technical director, Cranswick

Carter has spent the past 30 years at the Hull-based pork and poultry giant, working her way up from quality assurance operative to site technical manager at its largest primary processing site, through to divisional technical manager and latterly group technical director in 2018.

She is passionate about ensuring the quality, safety, legality and authenticity of food and delivering “exceptional” animal welfare standards.


Jodie Bolland

Jodie Bolland

Head of livestock sourcing, Woodhead Bros

Bolland was brought up on a farm in Malhamdale, North Yorkshire, and has worked within the meat industry for about 12 years. Her experience stretches from working at Morrisons-owned Woodheads across abattoir operations, to Morrisons’ retail beef lamb and pork senior buying manager and sales manager for all Woodhead Bros sites. She now oversees the sourcing of all livestock procurement and Woodheads’ agricultural strategy.


Christine Middlemiss_0001

Christine Middlemiss

UK chief veterinary officer

Middlemiss was appointed in 2018, having worked as the CVO in New South Wales since 2016. Her role includes leading on the UK’s post-Brexit protocol for the trade of meat and cheese, helping tackle recent vet shortages due to higher demand since the EU exit, and taking an often high-profile lead on the government’s response to avian flu.


Laura Ryan_0001

Laura Ryan

Founder, Meat Business Women

Ryan has a first class honours degree in marketing, a masters in management and has achieved chartered marketer status via the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

Until 2019 she was strategy director for beef & lamb at AHDB.

Ryan has since spearheaded a number of initiatives, including MBW, her own consultancy Lavenpark, and is also co-founder of the Global Meat Alliance to share best practice.



Six months on and we reach our sixth and final women’s power list. Looking back, we have been able to shine a light on the fantastic work that women are doing across the grocery industry and the key players making changes not only in their line of work, but also across their companies and the wider industry too.

Emily Deer

The final power list brings us to women in the meat industry. In 2020, a report found that on a global scale, women made up only 36% of the workforce. For an industry worth approximately £10bn in the UK alone, it is staggering to find so few women choosing a career in this sector.

The meat industry seems to lack women coming into the business even in entry-level positions, potentially creating a diverse talent drought for future leaders.

However, it is not a time to despair. Similar to what we saw with women in wholesale, meat has an incredible group of female leaders actively championing for change by leading a movement to invigorate female passion for the industry and to promote careers in the meat industry as a positive career choice.

Two such organisations that have been created to drive the transformation of the industry are the Women in Meat Awards and Meat Business Women. Led by women for women, these pioneers have recognised the issues facing the industry and are driving hard to make the changes.

Retrospectively, these lists have demonstrated that there are some incredible women who are using their power to change the face of grocery. As inspirational role models for the power women of tomorrow we are proud to be able to celebrate them as part of the power list series and are hopeful for the future of gender diversity in grocery.

Emily Deer, Director at Newton Europe


The 10 most powerful women in the meat industry