A native of Snellville, Georgia, Shackelford received his Bachelor of Science in 1987 and his Master of Science in 1989 from the University of Georgia. Upon completing his Master’s degree Shackelford was awarded a fellowship by the University of Georgia to train at the USMARC. He then pursued his Ph.D. at Texas A&M University under the advisement of Dr. Jeff Savell and conducted his dissertation research at USMARC.
Since 1992, Shackelford has been a research food technologist at USMARC. His research has been focused towards development of objective methods to evaluate beef tenderness and carcass composition at commercial processing speeds. The vision system that Shackelford and his colleagues developed for grading beef carcasses is used in most large- and medium-scale beef packing plants in North America. The noninvasive visible/near infrared spectroscopic system for tenderness prediction that he and his colleagues developed for beef and later adapted for use in pork has garnered much interest both domestically and internationally.
Shackelford is frequently contacted by international scientist seeking advice on application of visible and near infrared spectroscopy. He has conducted research on the genetic and phenotypic relationship between Longissimus tenderness and tenderness of other muscles in beef and lamb. Shackelford determined that pork tenderness is impacted by differences among packing plants in carcass chilling systems.
Shackelford has had the fortune to collaborate with a team of scientists at USMARC including Dr. Koohmaraie, Dr. Tommy Wheeler, and Dr. Andy King as well as numerous microbiologists, animal geneticists, and nutritionists. Additionally, his science has been enhanced through collaboration with numerous members of the meat industry, academia, and USDA-AMS. Shackelford’s research program has included training and mentoring undergraduate interns and graduate students from numerous colleges and universities.
Shackelford has received national recognition for his research accomplishments including numerous invitations to present the results of his research at scientific meetings and beef industry seminars. Shackelford and his colleagues have received technology transfer awards from both USDA-ARS (2004, 2007) and the Federal Laboratory Consortium (2005, 2009, 2013) for their efforts to insure the successful implementation of technology by the U.S. meat industry. In 1999, Shackelford received the Achievement Award from the American Meat Science Association. In 1997, Shackelford was named Northern Plains Area Outstanding Early Career Scientist of the Year by the Agricultural Research Service. He has authored or co-authored 164 refereed journal publications (38 as senior author), two patents, 21 technical reports, 20 invited papers, and one book chapter. Shackelford was nominated by Dr. Tommy Wheeler, who stated that “For the last 25 years Dr. Shackelford has demonstrated exceptional creative ability and adherence to sound scientific philosophy making him more than deserving for the AMSA Distinguished Research Award.”