There is a natural distrust of any kind of “big” industry. You can tell by the way that critics will refer to it as “Big _____” — Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Banks. It’s too corporate, too corrupt, too untrustworthy. On the other hand, smaller companies are held up as examples of everything that is good: family owned, caring, honest.

Of course, neither of these things is absolutely true. There are good and bad companies regardless of where you look in the business world. I’ve seen news stories about small companies found guilty of breaking laws or shirking their duties. Likewise, most if not all of the largest meat and poultry processors in the country donate to numerous charities. Instead of “Big Meat” versus “Small Meat,” the reality is more like “Good Meat” versus “Bad Meat.” The noteworthy companies, whatever their yearly sales figures, need to be held up as models of the industry, and the rule-breakers need to be put out of business before they cause further consumer distrust.

Part of the disconnect with consumers, I believe, stems from the fact that even in this social media age, some companies still keep to themselves and avoid the public eye. That may make some sense if you are a private labeler, without a brand of your own to promote. But if your product is available to consumers, they will want to know everything about your company, and you should make it as easy as possible. As consumers demand more and more transparency, every company should include a robust “About Us” section on their website and start to break down the wall between shopper and seller. Let the consumer get to know the people behind the brand. Put your processes, your philosophy, and your traditions up front and center, so you don’t become another faceless “Big Meat” company.

Consider some of the companies that IP has profiled lately. Dietz & Watson may be one of the largest deli meat manufacturers in the country, but they remain family-owned, and matriarch/spokesperson “Momma” Dietz helps to remind people of that fact. Then there’s Hermann Wurst House, this month’s feature. People who walk into Mike Sloan’s store may not even like sausages, but they can meet the man who made it and hear his story. More often than not, they’ll walk out of the Wurst Haus with a few pounds of brats and a new appreciation for how meat is made.

As we wrap up another year of Independent Processor, I wish you all a joyous holiday season and a successful 2015. We’ll see you next year.