In spring 2007, Ray Riley ’79 ’81 received a call from the New York Times asking for beef jerky samples. Riley manages the Rosenthal Meat Science and Technology Center at Texas A&M University, where students, faculty and staff manufactured and sold a signature recipe jerky alongside other beef products in-house. Riley thought little of the request until months later when a feature appeared in the paper dubbing the center’s jerky the best in the nation.
“The curled husks looked like the bark harvested from a magical meat tree,” the feature read. “There was an outdoorsy smokiness on the nose and a slowly unfolding flavor with a fierce black pepper finish.” With that mouth-watering endorsement, carnivores across America flooded the center’s phone with orders. “We sold more jerky that following month than we did the previous year!” Riley said.
Though state and national press coverage has mostly underscored its jerky (still sold “the old-fashioned way” over the phone) in recent years, the Rosenthal Center’s focus remains on leading meat science education, research and public service. Research from the center has been especially influential, impacting more than 70% of beef, lamb and pork consumers in the United States today, while the program has also produced more Meat Industry Hall of Fame inductees than any other American university. With plans for a new, cutting-edge facility underway, the meat science program looks to retain its status as the strongest in the nation.