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Meat: Is it What’s for Dinner?

Broiling down the facts of conventional meat and imitation meat products.

A juicy, thick cut hamburger patty sizzling on the seasoned bars of a smoky grill has long been an American staple. Topped with a slice of melty sharp cheddar, watery lettuce, and succulent tomato slices, what meat eaters have always known as a hamburger is changing as the market landscape is adapting to consumer demands. 

For those who don’t consume meat, meat analogues are an increasingly popular substitute to meat products. According to a 2014 article in the Meat Science academic journal, plant-based products are not a new idea, nor do they represent a new food category. However, modern imitation meat products are diffusing into grocery stores and the food service industry. Additionally, there is a justifiable debate on whether or not these analogue foods are nutritionally dangerous. As the expansion of meat analogues captivates markets, consumers should be made aware of the choices they have when making a purchase, whether in the grocery store or at a restaurant. 

“We believe what’s going on is ultimately about choice,” said Alec Winfrey, account manager at Cargill Protein. “We need to keep all protein options on the table when many consumers want choices at the center of their plates.” 

Meat analogues can be defined as food products made to simulate conventional meat on an aesthetic and nutritional basis. Typically, meat analogues are combinations of products derived from plants, fats and oils, flavor additives, and color additives. Due to the nature of imitation meats, they are classified as ultra-processed foods. Ultra-processed foods are those that are not made of whole food. They also go through a further handling process, such as curing or adding an ingredient. Flour and ground beef can both be classified as ultra-processed products. 

“Essentially, everything that we do, everything that we eat has some risk associated with it.”

Although ultra-processed has a negative connotation, it doesn’t necessarily mean a food is unhealthy. Dale Woerner, Ph.D., the Cargill Endowed Professor in Meat Science Sustainability in Texas Tech University’s Department of Animal and Food Sciences, claims processed is an overblown term that does not imply an item isn’t healthy.

“What people are most referring to processed foods is that we’ve refined the food to a point where it’s more digestible,” Woerner said. “Digestibility…means that it is converted to calories quicker. There are more readily available energy units, like glucose, stored and utilized as a result of that.”

Processing a meat product includes cutting, grinding, curing, marinating, and more.

The Meat Science journal article suggests visual appearance characteristics, such as color, are elementary quality cues in relation to consumer expectations. Similarly, the study concludes that consumers associate red and purple to freshness and brown to aged, lack of freshness. Due to meat having natural color, there isn’t a need to add coloring agents. However, a 2019 article from Food Science and Human Wellness states that meat analogues should have similar color characteristics before, during, and after cooking. 

Though coloring agents will vary between products, Bohrer’s research shows that ingredients frequently used in meatless products elicit naturally occurring color attributes, such as beet juice or tomato paste. Another way meat substitutes simulate a natural color is the use of sarcoplasmic proteins, which have similar chemical structures to the proteins that are responsible for color in meat. Typically, coloring agents do not affect the nutritional value of a food.

“Artificial coloring agents, or flavoring agents aren’t necessarily detrimental to human health,” Woerner said. “They’re not natural, but in most cases, they don’t have a nutritional contribution.”

From a nutritional standpoint, there are many factors that come into play in both conventional meat and imitation meat products. Number of ingredients, carbohydrates, oils and fats, protein content and other additives are things that are considered when evaluating the nutritional value of a food product, both real and analogous. While meats are whole food made of one ingredient, the Food Science and Human Wellness article states that meat analogues are made with ingredients in the double digits. These added ingredients were proven to be foodstuffs such as spices, coloring agents, binding ingredients, proteins derived from plants, and starches. 

“Our focus is on ensuring that both our animal- and plant-based protein products meet the nutritional needs and expectations of our customers and consumers,” Winfrey said. “Plant-based protein products can be formulated to address specific nutrition requirements. Nutritional requirements and preferences may vary based upon the region, customer and even consumer.”

Traditional meat products are normally bought raw while meat analogues typically come precooked.

The article from Food Science and Human Wellness also concludes that more research needs to be conducted on the nutritional effects of the extra ingredients in meat analogues, whether they are positive or negative. In like manner, traditional meats, particularly red meat, has been suggested in epidemiological research to have elevated risks leading to cancer. That being said, there is risk associated with real meat and meat analogues alike. 

“Essentially, everything that we do, everything that we eat has some risk associated with it,” Woerner said. “Pertaining to health or cancer or what have you is just to what point is that risk negligible.”

The verdict in the dispute between traditional meat products and meat analogues can’t be made up without further research. Both sides share the same story. Though there are risks associated with meat and simulated products, there needs to be more research conducted to determine what these risks mean to consumers. Even then, Woerner suggests consumers eat a balanced diet. No matter what dietary choice they make between meat analogues and conventional meat.

“An overabundance of anything leads to imbalance…over consuming meat, over consuming plants and over consuming carbohydrates,” Woerner said. “All can be bad if they are over consumed.”

With the demand for a variety of products, the market is becoming a competitive place. The Meat Science journal article proposes that understanding the complexity of consumer behavior and increasing knowledge of meat culture will boost market competitiveness. In the meantime, consumers can take the facts, interpret them, and make their own decision on which food product they prefer. 

“It’s exactly the same on both sides,” Woerner said. “That’s why moderation is key. Period.”

Organic vs. conventional: 3 things to consider before your next trip to the grocery store

I often complain to my friends about being “over-stimulated.” The creeping feeling usually manifests while I’m at a crowded club or a big concert. However, no place makes me wig out more than a busy grocery store. For this reason, I have become quite the night owl, frequenting the United by my house exclusively after 9 p.m.

It’s not just the herds of people, blaring eighties music (Madonna must be making millions in royalties from grocery store playlists alone), and violent shopping buggy collisions that push me into sensory overload, though.

It’s the amount of choices! And I’m not talking about Red Delicious versus Gala apples. I’m talking about choices that are marketed to seem as if making the wrong decision might detrimentally affect your health. I’m talking about organic food.

Following the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, the USDA rolled out its USDA Organic Seal. If companies get caught labeling a product that doesn’t meet the USDA’s guidelines with this seal, they can face an $11,000 fine. Yikes!
Photo by Lindsey M. Henry © 2018

What does that seal even mean? What happens if you consume non-organic food? Is organic food healthier than non-organic? With these questions and more in mind, I’ll share 3 things I always consider while navigating the screaming-child-laden, over-lit, and often confusing aisles of the grocery store.

1. What exactly does “organic” mean?

According to the USDA, in order for an item to be branded with the USDA Organic Seal, it must have been grown and processed in compliance with a multitude of different federal guidelines. Organic food is free of synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers and genetically modified organisms.

Something else to keep in mind: organic food is significantly more expensive than non-organic. This is due to several factors, including the fact that organic goods will generally have a lower yield and will cost more to raise due to the high cost of natural pesticides and fertilizers.

2. There isn’t substantial scientific evidence proving that organic food is healthier or that non-organic food is harmful.

Read this one more time: There isn’t substantial scientific evidence proving that organic food is healthier. Numerous studies suggest this, but the best I could find was conducted by Stanford University. A team of researchers analyzed 200 peer-reviewed studies focused on the differences between organic and non-organic food and the differences between people that chose to solely consume one or the other.

There was no notable difference, nutrition-wise, between organic and non-organic goods. The only real contrast was that the organic food had a smaller amount of pesticide residue present. However, it is important to note that all conventionally grown food must have less pesticide residue present than the legal limits put in place by regulatory bodies. In addition to feeding the entire world, it’s important to remember that producers are also feeding their very own families, and care very much about their well-being. Farmers and ranchers put an extensive amount of care and dedication into their yield to assure they produce a safe and quality product.

Here’s the organic fruit section at my local United store in Lubbock. The manager was extremely nice and accommodating while I took pictures.
Photo by Lindsey M. Henry © 2018

3. Millions of people are buying organic. Why?

Forbes magazine recently highlighted a study done in Australia where two groups were fed cookies. (If anyone has any information on how to be a part of these cookie-eating research groups, please let me know!) The first group was told not only that the cookies were organic, but that they were produced by a company that is committed to environmentally conscious manufacturing standards and utilizing locally sourced grains. The other group was giving the same exact cookie (hopefully not oatmeal raisin – gross!) but told that the cookies were manufactured by a terrible, awful company that imported its grains and was frequently criticized for causing environmental pollution, while also refusing to do anything to offset its carbon footprint. At the end of the tasting and information session, both groups rated the cookies on factors including taste and overall experience. The first group, which was told about a locally sourcing, environmentally conscious cookie company rated the cookies much, much higher than the bad, environmentally indifferent company.

After reading through numerous similar studies, I found a similar theme. While there is scant evidence that eating organic food is nutritionally superior, the presence of the USDA Organic Seal holds a positive connotation to most consumers, perhaps leading them to think that the brand bearing it is more environmentally conscious, practices higher standards of animal welfare, or is more “natural.” Consumers may think that they’re seeking better quality, more nutritious foods, but what they really get out of it is moral satisfaction – the feeling that they are doing good for them, their families and their world by purchasing a certain product.

Bottom line:

  • Don’t buy the organic tomato because it’s maybe, possibly, but probably not healthier than the alternative. But if you think it’s better looking than the non-organic one, or you just simply want to buy it, go for it. As someone who loves to grocery shop, I generally buy whatever looks the most delicious.
  • Be respectful of ALL opinions. At school, I am surrounded by people who are well versed in food and consumer science issues. They can see that it’s simply unnecessary to put more money toward organic food that offers no substantial health benefits. At the studio where I practice hot yoga, I hear ladies talking in the lounge about this fabulous organic, GMO-free (that’s a conversation for another day) cream cheese that everyone just has to try. Whatever their reason is for seeking out that USDA Organic Seal, is fine with me.
  • As supporters of agriculture, we need to support producers, including organic farmers and ranchers. Even if you don’t personally seek out organic food, don’t disparage the practices of those who produce and consume it. I once attended a lecture by Jayson Lusk, an agricultural economist. He talked about the importance of consumer choice. While its excessive signage may clutter up the aisles, as long as there’s a strong market for organic food, the need should be met by quality products from dedicated producers.

In review, we probably can’t make the grocery store stop playing repetitive, kitschy music. I don’t see any shopping buggy defensive driving courses being offered in the near future. But what can we do? We can arm ourselves with knowledge and become smart shoppers. I also recommend a double shot latte one hour prior to the grocery expedition.

Want to learn more about the organic conundrum? Check out these sources, and please, do some digging for yourself!

The Science of Why People Prefer Organic, Natural, and Non-GMO Foods

Organic Food May Not Be Healthier For You

Organic 101: What the USDA Organic Label Means

Three Most Mislabeled Products in your Grocery Store

Today more than ever before we as American consumers are being pushed to purchase products chock-full of food marketer’s favorite and most attractive food labels. We constantly hear how our bodies need the safest foods and how these “safe foods” only come from the purest of sources, where human hands have carefully tended to and manicured the holiest of products in their uncontaminated presence. When in reality, the way to continue feeding a growing and eating population is to use the agricultural advancements of today.

For those with allergies and illnesses, food labels take on a vital role in the grocery store aisles, but labels can also play the part of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. We as consumers begin to ask ourselves, “why do food products have labels in the first place, and do labels mean all the un-labeled food in the store is bad for me?” Read to find out what these labels mean and the three most mislabeled products at the grocery store.

Top 3 Mislabeled Everyday Products

1. Drinks. Water, milk, sports drinks, juices and many others fluids are often associated with a food label, but could probably be better left with a simpler packaging. Seeing water that is labeled as GMO Free makes us wonder if the H20 we have been drinking has been genetically modified in previous times.

As for our dairy drinks, the Federal Food & Drug Administration does not allow for milk with hormones to be sold into the market place, so all milk we purchase at the store is hormone free.

Finally, for the ice-cold juice we drink in the mornings. Juices that are marked as being “made with natural fruit juices,” may only contain small percentages of real juice.

The Non-GMO Claim: According to the Non-GMO Project, a GMO is a genetically modified organism. GMOs are organisms that have been altered through genetic engineering to produce a more hearty and weather resistant crop. Products labeled with the Non-GMO Project label indicates the product has been approved by a nonprofit organization offering a third-party non-GMO verification program.


In order for the product to be Non-GMO Project Verified, it must be evaluated for compliance within the organization’s standard, which categorizes factors into three levels of risk. Image provided by Pexels (2018). https://www.pexels.com/photo/assorted-bottle-and-cans-811108/

2. Produce. The second most mislabeled product in the grocery store is produce. Fruits and vegetables don’t naturally contain gluten or hormones, so why are consumers fixated on finding the vegetable bag with the most amounts of labels? I’ve never known the local produce manager to inject our fresh fruits with preservatives. Most all fruits and vegetables in the produce section could be considered all natural because they involve minimal processing. Ditching the label would still imply an all natural product.

The All-Natural Claim: According to USDA standards, if a product wishes to promote a natural label, the product must not contain artificial flavors, coloring ingredients, chemical preservatives, or any other artificial or synthetic ingredient and the product and its ingredients must be minimally processed.

Products marketed as All-Natural may include non-organic and GMO products. Image provided by Pexels (2018). https://www.pexels.com/photo/booth-branding-business-buy-264636/

3. Meats. Like drinks and produce alike, meat doesn’t inherently contain traces of gluten and most meats at the butcher counter come in the most natural form possible so buying high price gluten-free ground beef or the 100% natural chicken is evidently useless.

The Gluten-Free Claim: According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, a product labeled gluten free means the product does not inherently contain gluten or does not contain an ingredient that as a whole is a gluten-containing grain. It does not contain an ingredient that is derived from a gluten-containing grain and has not been processed to remove gluten but may contain an ingredient that is derived from a gluten-containing grain that has been processed to remove gluten as long as the food product contains less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten.

And gluten-free products must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten in the food due to cross-contamination from packaging materials.

Gluten can’t be tested for at zero percent gluten so there may be a small amount (less than 20 parts per million) of gluten in a product even if it is labeled gluten-free. Image provided by Pexels (2018). https://www.pexels.com/photo/supermarket-refrigerators-811107/

Additional Common Grocery Store Food Labels:

USDA Organic: According to the USDA, a processed or raw agricultural product containing the organic label must be certified organic, and non-organic ingredients allowed from the National List may be used, up to a combined total of 5 percent of the non-organic content. Products must state the name of the certifying agent and may include the USDA organic seal and/or an organic claim and the product label must identify organic ingredients. In other words, products that are labeled USDA organic can contain some non-organic factors.

100% Organic: According to the USDA, for a product to be USDA 100 percent organic, all ingredients must be certified organic, any processing aids or methods must be organic, and the product labels must state the name of the certifying agent on the information panel. These products may include the USDA organic seal and/or 100 percent organic claim and these products must identify all organic ingredients.

Traditional grocery stores are filled with the latest and greatest food technologies but current consumers are retreating to former days in hopes to cleanse their bodies of all impurities. The next time you’re buying drinks, meat and produce, I hope you’ll take a closer look at the packaging.

Trending Up

Sorghum can be used in all types of meals in all types of forms. This meal uses whole grain sorghum and sorghum syrup.
Sorghum can be used in all types of meals in all types of forms. This meal uses whole grain sorghum and sorghum syrup.

Ten years ago, sorghum, an ancient gluten-free grain, rich in health benefits, was nearly non-existent on grocery store shelves. Now, sorghum is one of the top food trends of 2017. How did this grain known more for its use as a livestock feed, come roaring into the food spotlight?

Faith Smith, consumer communications strategist for the United Sorghum Checkoff Program, said sorghum, an ancient grain from Africa, has made a name for itself.

“When I first started working for the checkoff three years ago, very few people knew sorghum as a whole grain food product,” Smith said. “Now, a large majority of consumers are beginning to learn about sorghum and its many applications as a food product.”

Sorghum’s rise in popularity is largely due to an increasing consumer demand for gluten-free, ancient whole grains. Doug Bice, Sorghum Checkoff market development director, said sorghum is all of those things.

“With this movement from plant base protein that we are seeing in the country,” Bice said, “the non-GMO movement, the gluten-free movement, the whole grain movement, and ancient grain movement, all those factors lend themselves perfectly to where sorghum checks all those boxes.”

Bice said sorghum has been in the food market for decades, but has been flying below the radar. The production of food-grade sorghum represents only three percent of the overall United States sorghum market share, with traditional uses such as livestock feed, feedstock for biofuel production and international exports utilizing the majority of the crop. However, farmers are growing this crop as they receive a premium when producing food-grade sorghum. That premium has risen within the last several years as the versatile grain finds its place on consumer grocery lists.

A strawberry and banana sorghum smoothie. Yum! Image courteous of Simply Sorghum.

Focusing on the Consumer

It is not just the whole grain and gluten-free movements that have made consumers want to try this delicious, ancient grain. The Sorghum Checkoff, a national farmer-funded organization devoted to promoting and improving the crop through research and market development, is engaging consumers to teach them more about sorghum.

Smith, whose main role within the checkoff is to expand consumer awareness of the grain, said the Sorghum Checkoff created a consumer research plan to better serve the needs of consumers interested in food-grade sorghum.

“To get to where we are today, we tested a lot of different ideas through a consumer research study,” Smith said. “We tested various messages, imagery, graphic styles and logo types. Ultimately, through that research, we were able to narrow down what was most likely going to be effective and successful.”

Using the consumer research data, Smith said the Sorghum Checkoff began developing a brand to promote food-grade sorghum through online and outreach activities. At the heart of the brand, called ‘Sorghum: Nature’s Super Grain,’ is a website that was created based on consumer’s demands for information on the product.

“We solidified that consumers needed to know the basics – what sorghum is, how they can use it and what the health benefits are,” Smith said.
The website contains a collection of sorghum-based recipes, nutritional information, tips for how to cook sorghum, and most importantly, where to buy sorghum products.

Bice added that the Sorghum Checkoff wanted its food brand to be similar to other well-known commodity checkoff-funded campaigns, such as ‘Got Milk’ or ‘Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner,’ but had to find a way to do with a limited budget and staff.

However, the checkoff was able to maximize its resources and created a one-of-a-kind campaign that used industry tradeshows and expos, as well as other creative activities to inform new audiences about the benefits of sorghum.
“We had media dinners where we invited the media in to look at the different dishes we were preparing,” said Bice. “We did a number of recipe-type contests, and there are over 200 recipes [on the website] associated with sorghum. We worked very hard with our communications [department], and they did a wonderful job setting up the consumer base and the consumer facing website.”

Smith said sorghum continues to get attention from consumers and food media.

It is healthy, it is versatile, it is convenient to put into whatever dish you want. Faith Smith

“There has been a lot of push behind sorghum, so I think people are really interested in it from an ancient grain perspective and a whole grain perspective,” said Smith. “It is healthy, it is versatile, it is convenient to put into whatever dish you want. So, I think the media is truly seeing the value that sorghum has.”

In the Spotlight

In 2017, sorghum was recognized by many organizations and publications as one of the year’s food trends, including the Daily Record and the James Beard Foundation, calling sorghum the new “it grain” because of its nutritional and gluten-free attributes. Men’s Health, also recognized sorghum as a “powerhouse grain” filled with fiber and offering key minerals for bone health.

As sorghum becomes the new “it grain,” Smith, believes sorghum still has a long way to go.

“We are still climbing the mountain,” Smith said. “I think that if we keep pushing the way we are and we keep promoting sorghum’s benefits, sorghum will continue trending in popularity.”

Try this simple sweet potato sorghum salad this fall. Courteous of Cara Harbstreet, The Street Smart Dietitian

  • Sorghum is a versatile grain as it comes in many different forms. The main forms sorghum that is sold in stores is whole grain, pearled grain, popped sorghum, and sorghum flour. Sorghum can also come in granola bars, cereals and protein powders.
  • Sorghum can be cooked as grain on a stovetop, a slow cooker, in the oven or in a pressure cooker. Sorghum is also great to precook and freeze for easy meals later on.
  • Sorghum is a gluten-free whole grain that offers nutritional benefits such as protein, iron, vitamin B6, and Magnesium while being rich in antioxidants. Sorghum also offers lots of energy, perfect for anyone trying to get through the day.
  • With 1 in 33 Americans having Celiac Disease or some type of gluten-intolerance, sorghum is the perfect substitute to certain grains.
  • Sorghum uses 1/3 less water than comparable crops, helping reduce the usage of water.

The Man with the Menu

Antonio Pina is the head chef at a local hotel restaurant in Lubbock, Texas. He enjoys using Texas-made products in his recipes.

The smell of fresh toast fills the air in the open kitchen in Lubbock’s newest hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn. Chef Antonio (Tony) Piña is whipping up breakfast for the hotel’s 90 guests. But this is no ordinary hotel breakfast. Piña is using local produce to create a Texas-made culinary experience.

Built on Hard Work

Piña grew up in a small Texas town, where everything revolved around agriculture. He spent most of his days with his father in the field, and he would come home to his mother cooking remarkable dishes. He says he believes his background was what put him to work in the restaurant industry.

Piña said his childhood revolved around family and food. He found his comfort zone in the kitchen alongside his family members. Growing up until now, he has utilized his imagination and turned it into creativity. He has developed this skill throughout his life and applied it to culinary art.

Since Piña was young, he has learned to work hard to earn what he wants in life. Instead of getting a bachelor’s degree, Piña only took the Restaurant and Hotel Management courses he needed to learn how to become more successful in his career. The rest of his education came from mentors and experience.

“I love the challenges I am given every day,” Piña said. “Challenges keep life spicy.”

Top Chef

Piña was asked to help open a hotel and be the top chef. Three hotels later, he settled at one of the newest hotels in Lubbock: the Hilton Garden Inn. Because of his passion for cooking, Piña decided to partner up with the Texas Department of Agriculture’s (TDA) GO TEXAN products to use in his recipes. He believes using local products is an important part of making his recipes one of a kind.

“I have always worked in the restaurant and the food industry,” Piña said. “Where there can be ups and downs.”

Piña’s partnership with GO TEXAN products allows him to meet new people. His favorite part of his job is the hospitality. He makes an effort to meet every guest who he cooks for, and then he describes the significance of the GO TEXAN products to them.

“I want the guests who visit here and eat here, I want them to think of my kitchen as a hidden gem,” Piña says, “I want everyone to remember their experience in Lubbock to be great, and to remember the uniquely made food.”

Chef Piña
Chef Piña enjoys using GO TEXAN products in his recipes.

Piña enjoys building relationships with the producers of the GO TEXAN products. He keeps the producers informed with the new recipes he implements when using their products so they can share with their audience. Most consumers know about the GO TEXAN products by word of mouth. The Hilton Garden Inn in Lubbock includes the GO TEXAN products on the menu along with other important factors of each item on the menu.

“Tony Piña and I have worked with each other for many years,” Matt Williams, a field representative for the TDA GO TEXAN program, said. “He is as passionate about GO TEXAN products as he is about his job.”

Local Flavor

Piña is also involved in GO TEXAN events, such as The Kitchen Crawl, Uncorked, March of Dimes and a few others he crafts together at the hotel. Piña hosts events at the hotel to create fun consumer engagement in order to promote specific GO TEXAN products. Occasionally, he implements a single product in multiple dishes so he can feature it as a special or a “product of the month” to the guests.

Piña has been selected to participate as a chef in many different events across Texas. One of the events, the Kitchen Crawl, is an event where a few Lubbock citizens open up their homes to the public and a select chef prepares food right in their kitchen. During the event, Piña created an ice sculpture and decorated it with shrimp straight from the gulf of Texas, also a product of GO TEXAN.

“The Kitchen Crawl is one of my favorite events to be a part of because it is fun to cook in someone else’s home and create something memorable for everyone involved,” Piña said.

Piña created a GO TEXAN menu for the second annual Uncorked event with the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce held in the spring of 2017. Red Raider Meats, a Texas Tech-based product and one of Piña’s favorite GO TEXAN clients, was included on the event’s menu.

After being involved with the local event for many years, Piña was finally rewarded the signature chef position for the March of Dimes event. The March of Dimes event is a signature chef’s event Piña participates in every year to help the community raise money for March of Dimes children in the local hospitals in Lubbock. March of Dimes is a foundation that focuses on helping prevent birth defects.

“The March of Dimes is an event I look forward to each year,” Piña says.

In Feb. 2017, Piña was invited to be a select chef at the J.W. Marriott in Houston, Texas for one of the Super Bowl celebrations. He did not incorporate his preference of GO TEXAN products, but he still emphasized this occasion as an opportunity of a lifetime. He helped cater to 750 individuals involved with the companies of Gatorade, AT&T, and Visa. Professional athletes and their families attended this dinner as well. Piña explains the large group was of all kinds; however, once all of the food was served, everyone connected with each other and the food.

“I believe food brings people together,” he said. “It’s a beautiful thing to see when someone sits down and enjoys a meal while there’s a conversation going on.”

Going Forward

Piña hopes to continue utilizing his skills, creativity, and involvement in the GO TEXAN program to help local businesses. He enjoys incorporating Texas-made products in his dishes, and he plans to do so for years to come.

“Why not use local products?” Piña said. “Texas has so much to offer. Lubbock has so much to offer. Lubbock has cotton, wine, and other products right here in our backyard. I choose to use these local products to keep my money in my city.”

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