You get way more than just a bottle of seasoning or a package of bacon when you buy a product with a Raider Red Meats label. You buy years of collaboration, months of cultivation, days of calculation, and hours of dedication.
What started as a way to fund a teaching process has blossomed into a full-fledged auxiliary enterprise, called Raider Red Meats, which now has successful business relationships with several grocery stores and local restaurants.
The Texas Tech University meat science and muscle biology program within the Department of Animal and Food Sciences needed a way to supplement the cost of the comprehensive, hands-on teaching conducted in its classrooms and labs.
“In the beginning, we were kind of like any other meat lab where we were just trying to recoup the cost of teaching,” said Tate Corliss, director of Raider Red Meats. “We needed to teach pork fabrication, so we fabricated a pork carcass. We needed to try to recoup the cost of it so we would sell those items.”
Raider Red Meats has existed in various forms since 1982. Almost 10 years ago, Raider Red Meats decided to expand their market opportunities beyond COWamongus!, the on-site retail store and restaurant. Raider Red Meats is a member of the Texas Department of Agriculture GO TEXAN program that helps to promote Texas-made products. Former TDA field representative, Matt Williams, who now serves as the assistant director of development in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, helped Corliss find a market that would promote Raider Red Meats products in their store. In 2010, they found success with a local distribution center that got their products into the United Supermarkets grocery store chain.
“I had worked with United well enough to know they were really interested in local or Texas products,” Williams said.
Corliss was able to secure spots on the shelves at nine Lubbock locations of United Supermarkets, Amigos and Market Street to sell their products. Brisket rub, steak seasoning, BBQ sauce, four styles of smoked sausage and three flavors of bacon are now available on these grocery store shelves.
“Being a Red Raider and being proud of Raider Red Meats, I definitely hoped that this would work out,” Williams said. “I knew that with our meats lab and the leadership of Tate Corliss and his group, they would do everything they could to make it happen and successful.”
Raider Red Meats products have a large consumer base in the Lubbock area because many people know what all goes into the product before the Raider Red Meats label is put on it. The products they purchase come from the collaboration of sound ideas, detailed planning and endless hours of dedicated work that is all paralleled by profound learning.
“I always try to purchase Raider Red Meats products when I can,” said Lindsey Henry, a Raider Red Meats customer from Harper, Texas. “My husband was a part of the meats judging team when he was in college here, so I know first-hand what a great program it is and love having the opportunity to support them.”
Raider Red Meats also has their products served in local restaurants. Some of the restaurants they sell to include the Texas Café and Bar – The Spoon, Choochai Thai Cuisine, Hotel Turkey and Lubbock Country Club. Consumers know it will always be a quality product, but more importantly, they know they are supporting a cause that goes beyond just producing for profit. Restaurant owners, meat buyers and customers share similar sentiments about supporting Texas Tech and Raider Red Meats.
“We’re a family of Red Raiders,” said Tina Carson, owner of Hotel Turkey, in Turkey, Texas. “Beyond the awesome quality we can always expect from Raider Red Meats, it makes us happy to be able to support our alma mater as well.”
We are really offering something unique to give our students real-world experience in a working meat company…
A Cut Above
Students work in the meat lab and COWamongus! to help prepare cuts of meat for sale and fresh food for customers. Paid student assistant positions include cashiers, cooks, researchers, meat processors and fabricators. These students prepare the products that are shipped off-campus to outside retailers.
Ben Weatherly, sales manager for Raider Red Meats, said the students have more interaction with their customers than he does.
“Specifically with United, our students are the ones calling them, getting orders and delivering the orders,” Weatherly said. “It’s a direct relationship there.”
The students who work in these positions are exposed to every aspect of a meat production operation. They learn how to do everything from harvesting an animal to delivering the finished product to the customer, including packaging, sales and keeping track of profit and loss statements.
“Working here has allowed me to work with customers on a daily basis as well as get a feel for the production side of the industry,” said Jess Nighswonger, an animal science major with a meat science business option, from Keenesburg, Colorado. “The opportunities and experiences I’ve had have given me the desire to continue to work in the industry as a career after I finish school.”
This program shapes the leaders of tomorrows meat industry.
“We are really offering something unique to give our students real-world experience in a working meat company,” Corliss said.
Student assistants are not the only ones who get to go through this remarkable learning opportunity. Courses in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences will have Corliss or Weatherly often visit with the class to explain topics such as the marketing of meat products, the difference in retail cuts, and the global meat market.
The students who excel in this program do more than just earn an hourly wage or put package labels on products. They earn invaluable lessons about real-world business and how to feed a hungry community and world.
“I just have a passion for the difference it makes in the student’s lives,” Corliss said.