Sterling Shrum

Sterling Shrum has 2 articles published.

More Than a Label

All of your BBQ cook-out needs can be purchased in one convenient grocery store trip.

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.

Raider Red Meats products can be easily identified by the unique red and black label that is consistent on all of their products.

“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.

Change to the Estate Tax Means Good Things for Farmers and Ranchers

There is no question that the number of family-run farms and ranches in America are on a fast decline. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farms and Land in Farms report, the number of farms has decreased by 137,500 farms in the past ten years. This can be attributed to many causes; such as loss of interest in the upcoming generations, or farmers and ranchers struggle to earn what they need to live. There is also one big reason these operations are declining that many do not think about, and that is the estate tax.

The estate tax, also known as the “death tax”, is a tax placed on the deceased’s estate when it is passed down to the heir. In plain words, when a farm or ranch is passed on to the next generation, a steep tax can be placed on the estate if it is large enough to not be exempt. This is what leads operations to be parted out and often sold-off, and makes farm succession very difficult.

Estate taxes can make it hard for all generations to enjoy the ranching lifestyle without having to worry about the burdens of paying such a large tax. Original photo by Sterling Shrum.

What the Estate Tax Was

Originally, the exemption was $5.49 million per person. If a person’s estate is valued at less than that amount, they are exempt from the estate tax. If the estate is worth more, it will be taxed for the amount over the $5.49 million, at a rate of 40 percent. For example, if I was an heir to my father’s ranch that is worth $10 million, I would be taxed for the $4,510,000 that is over the exemption level. At a tax rate of 40 percent, I would pay $1,804,000 in taxes just to inherit an operation that has been left for me.

What the Estate Tax Is Now

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was passed at the end of 2017 and increased the tax exemption level. The new exemption level went into effect on Jan. 1, 2018, and raised the exemption level to $11.2 million. With this increase, my father’s estate of $10 million would fall under the $11.2 million amount, and I would be exempt from paying a high tax on the estate. This means I would not have to pay almost $2 million in taxes!

What the New Estate Tax Means

The increased tax exemption means more operations can be passed down without having to incur a tax. This can help to keep family-owned farms and ranches intact and successful. Many families were resorting to piecing out sections of land, or resisting the growth of the operation, just to keep the value small and under the original $5.49 million exemption level. This caused many operations to deny opportunities that could have exponentially grown their business, which led to missed income. One thing that did not change about the estate tax in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is the timeframe to pay the tax. Heirs have nine months to pay the tax, and in some cases this time frame can be expanded to 15 years, if you qualify.

There are many resources, such as this one, if you are interested in setting up a succession plan for your operation. Graphic courtesy of Farm Bureau Financial Services.

Estate taxes play a large role in farm succession planning for families. Hopefully with the exemption level almost doubling, it can take away some of the burden of losing a loved one.


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