Tate Corliss, director of Raider Red Meats, arrives around seven each morning to prepare for the day ahead. However, on a morning in March 2020, he opened the door to begin his day and was shocked to see a line of people extending into the parking lot. This is when he realized things had shifted – and Raider Red Meats would have to adapt.
“Producers were hurting, and consumers were demanding the meat, but the middleman was missing.”
What was known as a meat shortage to many felt like an opportunity for Raider Red Meats to shine. While COVID-19 presented challenges to the meat fabrication process and retail industry, it drove many to rely on local processors for their meat.
As a smaller operation that is 90% student-based, Raider Red Meats stepped up to serve the community by continuing to provide high-end, high-quality meats while also providing real world experience for its student employees.
Prior to the pandemic, Corliss said Raider Red Meats’ sales consisted of about 60% wholesale, which included foodservice and restaurants, and 40% retail. As the demand in the food industry shifted, sales followed suit, leading to an 80% retail and 20% wholesale makeup almost overnight.
“We kind of had our business turned on its head,” Corliss said. “But fortunately, we were prepared because we produce the meat here.”
As demand for meat increased across the region, businesses were called to step up and provide for their community. Raider Red Meats accepted this challenge to bridge the gap between producers and consumers and were able to engage with a new customer base in the Lubbock community.
Keith Shoemake, senior student assistant, was one who helped the program persevere during these times. As the number of customers increased, Shoemake adapted by taking on an evening shift preparing orders for the following day.
“I realized it was going down; people were really hysterically buying,” Shoemake said, “and I thought, ‘I don’t know how we’re going to supply this for people that want that.’”
As a result of this behavior, Raider Red Meats processed 250 beef carcasses in 2020, which was a sharp increase from their typical custom processing load of 30 to 50 head per year. This led to numerous challenges, including a shortage of trained workers.
“Producers were hurting, and consumers were demanding the meat, but the middleman was missing,” Corliss said, “and we felt like it was our duty to open that up and get to it.”
Although the pandemic caused many changes to their daily routine, Raider Red Meats chose to alter their perspective and focus on providing for their community.
“It was a lot to adapt through, but we were able to accomplish it and I feel like we were successful,” Corliss said.