A contribution from a Texas Aggie and businessman to the Department of Animal Science at Texas A&M University has ensured a successful start and promising future for a program designed to prepare students for a career in the meat industry.
“Mr. Rea’s generous financial commitment provides the support the department needs to broaden and enhance the educational opportunities available for students wishing to enter a career in U.S. meat production, processing and the sales industry,” said Russell Cross, Ph.D., head of animal science. The master of agriculture in animal science with an emphasis in the meat industry is designed to provide students who have a bachelor’s degree supplemental coursework and practical experience through internships to prepare for a variety of careers in, and for future leadership of, the U.S. meat industry.
“The program focuses on the process of accelerating the climb up the corporate management ladder by exposing students to the tutelage of veteran industry experts with records of previous industry success,” said Dr. Gary Smith, visiting professor and chair of the degree emphasis program’s executive committee. Students are required to complete 36 hours of coursework in meat science, management, marketing, communication and leadership, and two short-term professional internships within the meat industry customized to meet specific student career interests. Students can complete a graduate certificate in meat science as a component of this degree plan.
Don Rea, a native of Fort Worth, Texas, has more than 40 years of leadership experience in the food industry. He held a variety of positions from entry-level to upper management in all facets of the meat industry from slaughter to further processing, and later in his career he became owner and partner of several companies.
“What interests me most about the master of agriculture in animal science with an emphasis in the meat industry is it gives students a chance, once completing a bachelor’s degree, to jump right into a master’s program to gain more coursework, work two internships, learn from industry leaders and become prepared to go right into a management position,” Rea said. “This is something that wasn’t offered when I was there in 1969. It took me 20-25 years to do what this program will allow the right student to do in three to four years.”
After graduating from Texas A&M with a bachelor’s degree in animal science in 1970, Rea began his career at Uvalde Provision Company, a small independent meat packer and was exposed to all facets of the business from slaughter to sales. Rea then spent nine years with Safeway Store, Inc. and learned the retail side of the meat business. He held a broad range of management positions including purchasing and industrial engineering, and finally as general manager responsible for running the largest meat prefabricated warehouse in the Safeway system.
Next, Rea worked for eight years at Texas Meat Purveyors, a new processing facility supplying hotels, restaurants, and institutions with portioned meat, pork and poultry. As vice president and general manager, he was instrumental in growing total sales of this start up meat processing company to $40 million. In 1988, Rea became vice president of sales and marketing for Quality Sausage, a manufacturer of cooked meats toppings and pepperoni, and had a significant impact on profitability and growth as revenue increased from $10 million to $50 million in four years.
Rea’s unique approach to building business was reflected in his work as president of KPR Foods, L.P. , president and CEO of Foodbrands Foodservice Company and later as group vice president of Tyson Prepared Foods, where he spent 12 years building relationships and delivering impressive bottom-line results with total sales of $1.6 billion. In 2005, Rea joined an existing partnership with CTI Foods, a cooked meats manufacturing company, and he served on the board of directors until his retirement in 2011.
“The career path of Don Rea exemplifies the importance of preparedness, dedication and hard work as he advanced from bachelor’s graduate, to new-hire in a small independent meat processing plant, to ownership of several food companies, and–ultimately–to president of one of our nation’s largest food-manufacturing companies,” Smith said. “He has provided Texas A&M with financial support, but more importantly, he is actively participating in the master of ag program by advising and counseling its students on matters of management, marketing and communication in the food-supply chain.”
Establishing an endowment such as this one can support academic programs for years to come. Support graduate students and other programs in the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences today.