Meat Science Professor Focuses on Opportunities for Students

Dr. Dale Woerner provides assistance to graduate student Blanchefort Djimsa.

ale Woerner is known for his excellence in meat science, but more importantly, known by the passion he has for his students.

Woerner, a researcher in meat science was awarded the Cargill Endowed Professorship in Meat Science Sustainability in the Texas Tech Department of Animal and Food Sciences in August 2018.

“Cargill wanted someone in the industry that was known for conducting research, and for training,” Woerner said. “I was fortunate enough to earn the position.”

Woerner spent the past 13 years at Colorado State University where he earned his doctoral degree, was an associate professor, and coached the meat judging team. Being a professor and the meat judging coach was not enough for Woerner, he also served as a member of Colorado State’s Program of Research and Scholarly Excellence, and the university’s Center for Meat Safety and Quality.

Woerner touched the lives of many during his time at Colorado State. Taylor Horton, a meat science graduate student at Texas Tech, followed Woerner from Colorado State where she had him as a professor and judging coach.

“When I met Dale, I was a freshman, washing dishes for a graduate student.” Horton said. “He took the time to come ask me my name, where I was from, and then remembered that the next time he saw me. I feel like that just says a lot about who he is because he cares about the individual so much and he is very vested in the individual and how he can help them achieve their goals.”

“The sky is the limit…”

Woerner said he is thankful for the relationships he made at Colorado State that motivated and helped him to be where he is today.

“Both my wife and I are originally from Texas, so we wanted to move back to be closer to family, and as alumni, we are also extremely excited to be back at Texas Tech,” Woerner said.

Woerner was chosen in 2018 as a Texas Tech Distinguished Alumni in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources in 2018. Tracee Murph, coordinator of alumni relations for CASNR, said the distinguished alumni award recognizes and honors graduate, whose achievements and careers have greatly represented the college and to the professions associated with agriculture and natural resources.

“To be chosen as a distinguished alumnus is a huge honor for any individual,” Murph said. “With his research background and previous successes at Tech and Colorado State in meat science, Dale Woerner’s nomination was clearly considerable.”

Being the first holder of the Cargill Endowed Professorship, Woerner hit the ground running. Woerner said the endowment professorship has allowed him to equip the laboratory to a higher level, and to be more capable of doing more for the industry.

“Cargill’s goal in sustainable meat science is to improve the way we produce meat, but also making sure there is a supply of individuals to work in the industry,” Woerner said.

Dale Woerner beams with pride as the first Cargill Endowed Professorship recipient.

Woerner said the level of education a student can receive in classrooms, nationwide is comparable, but what Texas Tech does exceptionally well and that Cargill and others in the agriculture field recognize, are the extracurricular opportunities.

Horton said before following Woerner, she knew Texas Tech’s animal and food science program was very prestigious.

“I think Dale represents the program as how it is known,” Horton said.

Woerner said the extracurricular opportunities, such as Texas Tech’s meat judging, market animal evaluation, and quiz bowl teams, help drive student’s interest in meat science.

“I believe that is what Cargill recognized years ago, and why they decided to make a contribution to Texas Tech,” Woerner said.   

Recently, Woerner met with Texas Tech’s Department of Hospitality and Retail Management, which has an interest in joining forces with the animal and food sciences and wildlife management departments to meet a new demand for people to manage hunting lodges. Hunting lodges are looking for individuals educated in food production as well as the animals being hunted on their properties.

“If you told me before I came to Tech seven months ago that I would be talking to someone about processing and cooking meat for a wild game hunting operation and working with chefs and people who manage hotels and restaurants, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Woerner said.

Woerner said students are offered to specialize and find something they are passionate about and make it a career.

“This is huge,” Woerner said. “The sky is the limit; your career is completely chosen by what you do here.”

Woerner has a passion to open new opportunities for not only his students, but students from other colleges at Texas Tech.

“You always hear those management strategies that it’s not just about getting the right people on the bus, it’s about finding them the right seat,” Horton said. “Dale is excellent at that.”

Woerner said by interacting and supporting his students as much as he can is how he plans to make a difference.

“I hope in the future, I broaden opportunities not only in the college of agriculture, but for other colleges at the university,” Woerner said.