CANYON, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – West Texas A&M University announced that an animal science major from Hereford will be honored as its Intern of the Year on Thursday, after pioneering an innovation that could have a multimillion-dollar impact on the beef processing industry.

According to the university, junior animal science major Renee Padilla will be recognized at 3 p.m. on Thursday in the lobby of WT’s Happy State Bank Academic and Research Building in Canyon. Padilla will receive a $1,000 scholarship from Phillips 66 and be submitted for the national Cooperative Education & Internship Association Academic Intern of the Year Award.

The recognition comes after Padilla worked from May through August as an intern at the Cargill Protein facility in Friona, according to WT, where he was asked to find a better way to cut hanger steaks during the processing of cattle for food. He was well-suited to the task, according to a nomination letter by Ty Lawrence, WT’s Caviness Davis Distinguished Chair in Meat Science, because of his previous experience in beef processing.

The hanging tender is, “a very delicate piece that’s held on by a tissue,” according to Padilla. It’s easily nicked during processing, which decreases its market value.

While Padilla and Cargill team members worked to create a modified cutting style to better maintain the meat’s integrity, Friona Beef Plant General Manager Casey Conrad reported that the process was not adopted because of other additional costs it could incur. However, Padilla devised a different tactic that was adopted, focused on how workers were trained to place animals on the evisceration table. The second tactic showed similar results because of the hanging tender’s placement on the body – nearly doubling yields, which could mean millions in additional revenue for Cargill.

“Renee truly earned this award because of his creative thinking,” Conrad said, “His initial idea wasn’t adopted, but that kind of innovation is exactly what we’re looking for.”

Padilla presented his strategies to corporate leadership in August and earned an intern scholarship for his innovative efforts, according to Cargill’s lead recruiter, Michael Hewitt. Padilla was also offered a supervisory position at the Friona plant.

“It’s nice to see the big top dogs listening to know us interns as we come pretty brand new into the industry and how new minds in the industry can bring better ideas and better product better safety to the consumer, said Padilla.”

WT detailed that Padilla, now 27, has worked in the meat industry since he was a teenager and helped support his younger sister to earn an agribusiness degree at WT. Then, he was able to enroll at 24 in the Paul Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences.

“We came from nothing, but honesty and hard work brought us far,” Padilla said, “It’s a privilege to be named Intern of the Year. I felt like an underdog since I’m not a traditional student, but I’m honored and humbled to be recognized.”

The program is meant to help encourage students see what they are capable of and showcase their talents to potential employers.

“Our hope is that we highlight students like Renee and our other applicants and other students will see that and think I can do this, or maybe they’re motivated to try and apply and pursue it a little bit more, said Steve Sellars, Associate Director of the Career and Professional Development Office.” “We also want employers to notice these great WT interns so that they want to hire our students as well.”

The award comes as a part of Internship Week, according to WT, which included informational booths and several professional development workshops. A total of 24 student interns, including Padilla, were considered for the award:

  • Yotam Balbul, a senior computer information systems major from Haifa, Israel, who interned at Addict Miami;
  • Koelle Brandenberger, a junior agricultural business and economics major from Claunch, New Mexico, who interned at AgTexas;
  • Sophia Britto, a senior digital communication and media major from Amarillo, who interned at the Don Harrington Discovery Center;
  • McKenna Cavalier, a senior nursing major from Canadian, who interned at Four Square Church;
  • Levi Condren, a senior mechanical engineering major from Fritch, who interned at Phillips 66 Borger Refinery;
  • Mason Condren, a senior mechanical engineering major from Fritch, who interned at Provenance Consulting;
  • Quinn Dunham, a senior agriculture media and communication major from Greensboro, North Carolina, who interned at the National Reined Cow Horse Association;
  • Eliana Flores, a graduate student in history from Denver City, who interned in WT’s Cornette Library;
  • Angela Gonzalez, a senior animal science major from Dalhart, who interned in WT President Walter V. Wendler’s office;
  • Gabriel Guerrero, a senior digital communication and media major from Hereford, who interned in WT’s Office of Student Engagement and Leadership;
  • Shelby Lain, a senior plant, soil and environmental science major from Jenks, Oklahoma, who interned at CSS Farms;
  • Hunter Lefevre, a junior computer information systems major from Lockney, who interned at Run Business Solutions;
  • Magali Medina, a senior engineering technology major from Dimmitt, who interned at the Texas Department of Transportation;
  • Jayci Mekelburg, a junior agribusiness major from Eckley, Colorado, who interned at Northeast Agri Service;
  • Jordan Nall, a senior agribusiness and economics major from Coleman, who interned at Phibro Animal Health Corp.;
  • William Norwood, a senior environmental science major from Austin, who interned at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service;
  • Logan Paetzold, a senior agribusiness and economics major from Hereford, who interned at AgriVision Equipment Group;
  • Spencer Parton, a senior computer science major from Amarillo, who interned at Broadcom’
  • Kendal Powell, a senior agricultural media and communication major from Bennett, Colorado, who interned at the “Texas” outdoor musical and Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum;
  • Jayden Rollins, a junior criminal justice major from Amarillo, who interned at Texas Parks and Wildlife Law Enforcement Division;
  • Lindsey Sawin, a junior agricultural media and communication major from Vernon, who interned at American Angus Association;
  • Hallie Vigil, a senior agribusiness major from Chimayo, New Mexico, who interned at American Implement; and
  • Danielle Williams, a senior agricultural media and communication major from Moscow Mills, Missouri, who interned in President Wendler’s office.

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