This year’s Top 100 meat and poultry processors report features more billion-dollar companies than ever before, and for the first time, every single company on the list has sales of $100 million or more. Record meat prices apparently did not diminish consumer demand for meat and poultry prices.

Certainly, record protein prices, particularly in the beef segment, helped contribute to that success. Companies that responded to the 2014 Top 100 Report stated that their top concern was that rising meat prices would force consumers to trade down in the protein category or be forced out of the segment entirely. Fortunately, demand does not appear to have been affected, and early reports that protein prices should stabilize or even decrease should only benefit consumers.

Judging from comments by Top 100 companies, protein prices will continue to be a concern over the next year. Beef prices and beef supplies were listed as the leading concern among this year’s respondents. Despite the fact that the USDA reported the first expansion of the U.S. cattle herd in eight years, companies fear that low cattle numbers will lead to tighter raw material supplies and higher prices. Avian influenza was a chief concern among poultry companies, and the widespread appearance of that pathogen in the country has already hurt exports.

Processors on this year’s Top 100 Report took advantage of a favorable year by strengthening their operations. Several companies made acquisitions of other meat processors or ancillary businesses. Tyson Foods made the biggest splash by landing Hillshire Brands (an acquisition that took place after the fiscal years for both companies had ended, hence they are listed separately this year), but Hormel Foods, West Liberty Foods, Cooper Farms and John Soules Foods were among the companies that acquired new operations. Several other companies expanded facilities, broke ground on new buildings or made technology investments to improve their production. Read on for more company highlights.

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2015 Market Segment Reports

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Highlights from the Top 100

  • Tyson Foods Inc. (#1) acquired the assets of Hillshire Brands Co. (#11) in August 2014, which will be reflected in next year's Top 100 report. The company also acquired Bosco's Pizza Co. to boost its prepared-foods business and sold its poultry businesses in Mexico and Brazil to JBS Sa.
  • In 2014, Cargill (#3) announced plans to convert to group housing for its sows that produce hogs for pork. Company-owned facilities will be 100 percent group housing by the end of calendar 2015. Contract hog farms that contain Cargill-owned sows will transition to 100 percent group housing by the end of calendar 2017. The company’s Honeysuckle White and Shady Brook Farms became the first major turkey brands to remove growth-promoting antibiotics from all turkeys across the independent farms with which it works.

    Cargill Cattle Feeders LLC, the cattle supply arm of the Cargill’s U.S. beef business, entered into an agreement with Wichita-based consultancy Kennedy and Coe LLC, in a joint effort to create a verified beef supply chain sustainability assessment program for Cargill feed yards.
  • In July, 2014, Hormel Foods (#6) acquired CytoSport Holdings LLC, makers of Muscle Milk products.
  • OSI Group LLC (#9) opened a new facility in Riverside, Calif., and announced new joint ventures in the United Kingdom and in Canada.
  • In February 2015, Sanderson Farms (#14) completed construction and began processing chickens at its newest division in Palestine, Texas. This is a fully integrated division with a feed mill, hatchery, processing plant and wastewater facilities.
  • AdvancePierre Foods (#22) achieved record net sales in 2014 and expanded sandwich production by 25%. The company acquired the wholesale and manufacturing operations of Landshire Inc. and announced the acquisition of assets of Better Bakery (expected to close May 2015).
  • Greater Omaha Packing (#23) added 30,000 square feet to its facility for portion-control and case-ready product.
  • House of Raeford Farms Inc. (#24) opened a new further-processing plant in Mocksville, N.C. and purchased a Filet of Chicken LLC further-processing plant located Forest Park, Ga. The company also sold its further-processing plant in Raeford, N.C.
  • Boar’s Head Provisions Co. (#24) introduced a Black Forest Beechwood Smoked Ham, smoked with imported German beechwood.
  • Kenosha Beef International Ltd. (#28) had record sales in 2014, topping the $1 billion mark.
  • In June 2014, West Liberty Foods (#37) purchased the assets of Quantum Foods in Bolingbrook, Ill. In December, the company announced it had partnered with United Insulated Structures in the development and construction of a cold storage facility in Bolingbrook. This will be a 173,000-square-foot facility that will employ 50-70 people when fully operational. The facility will be named Liberty Cold Storage and construction is anticipated to be complete by March, 2016.
  • In October 2014, Creekstone Farms Premium Beef (#40) built a 73,000 square foot addition to its plant, bringing the total facility to 550,000 square feet.  The new building houses fabrication, pack off, human resources, employee locker rooms and support staff. Creekstone also launched a new case-ready packaging program for both premium Black Angus beef and all-natural Duroc pork.
  • Caviness Beef Packers Ltd. (#41) announced joint venture with Simplot in Kuna, Idaho and the construction of a new beef harvest/boning facility scheduled to open in early 2017.
  • Cooper Farms (#47) purchased the assets of Ft Recovery Equity Coop, including a feed mill, egg layers, egg processing & specialty egg production, as well as the Perham Egg of Ohio entity, a new liquid egg processing company located in Ft Recovery, Ohio. The company also joined a new pork processing venture with 10 other hog producers and Clemens Food Group to build a new fresh pork packing facility in Coldwater, Mich. to open in the fall of 2017.
  • Stampede Meat Inc. (#49) had record annual sales for tonnage and revenue in fiscal 2014.
  • John Soules Foods (#55) acquired Pro View Foods of Gainesville, Ga., a further processor of ready-to-cook and fully cooked chicken products.
    “The combination of our strong product development and manufacturing capabilities will enable the acceleration of our leading market positions in core categories, expansion into new, high-growth retail categories and the broadening of our geographic reach across the retail and foodservice markets,” said co-CEO Mark Soules.
  • Natural Food Holdings (#58) completed a carcass cooler expansion.
  • Colorado Premium (#62) acquired Buedels Fine Meats of Bridgeview, Ill.
  • In July, Rastelli Foods Group (#62) opened a second Rastelli Market Fresh location, a 35,000-square-foot specialty grocer and made-to-order food concept store in Marlton, N.J. The company broke ground on an expansion that will double the size of its production plant in Swedesboro, N.J.
  • Allen Harim Foods (#66) saw sales growth of 15% in 2014. The company is expanding feed mill to accommodate growth, remodeled its Harbeson, Del. plant to increase breast and leg deboning and acquired a Millsboro complex for warehouse and distribution.
  • Dakota Provisions  (#69) enjoyed record sales in 2014, as the company also increased production of an antibiotic-free product.
  • In 2014, BrucePac (#81) saw a new acquisition (a processing plant in Oklahoma), new products and increased sales.
  • In spite of challenges to the special protein market, Mountain States Rosen (#82) saw its revenue increase by 7% in 2014.
  • Strauss Brands (#84) continues to grow its grass-fed beef production, pushing the company to record sales. The company is planning a $3.5 million investment into new automation for its production facility.
  • Eddy Packing Co. Inc. (#88) partnered with Harley-Davidson to de¬velop the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse Customs brand and launched 13 meat products in 2014. The company incorporated new technology to streamline its processes and increased its business in private-label.
  • Jensen Meat Co. (#91) announced the promotion of Abel Olivera to CEO and Trisha Lavigne to Vice President. Additionally, Jensen said it was able to build stronger relationships to ensure quality on a national and international level, as well as substantial grown for the retail brand.
  • In 2014 Proportion Foods (#100) experienced record sales with new customers in both the retail and restaurant segments.

Bubbling Under the Top 100

Burger’s Smokehouse topped $50 million in sales for the first time. The company installed high-pressure processing (HPP) during 2014 which will further enhance food safety while reducing the use of chemical preservatives. Excess HPP capacity is available to be used on a tolling basis. (50)

Kiolbassa Provision Co. saw its 3rd straight year of 20+% growth, and demand for its sausage products has expanded the company’s geographical distribution to 48 states, Mexico and Puerto Rico. “Our values based culture is the bedrock of our success and, coupled with our commitment to open-book management, enabled our company to weather a particularly volatile commodity market in 2014,” says President Michael Kiolbassa. (47.5)

Deli Brands of America is expecting an expansion to be completed May 2015 to provide added cooking and chilling capacity. The company also saw record sales and pounds produced, as well as consecutive years of achieving an “A” grade for BRC certification. (44.6)

Pederson Natural Farms Inc. had its third straight year with more than 30 percent sales growth. (25)

Blue Grass Quality Meats acquired the Harvest and Family Brand rights from Ohio Packing.  This acquisition added production volume, increase the percentage of foodservice business and delivered new customers in new markets. (23)

Seltzer’s Smokehouse Meats added a garlic-flavored Lebanon Bologna to its line of all-beef Lebanon Bologna products. (11)

Western’s Smokehouse is building a new facility in its headquarters in Greentop, Mo. (7.2)

Esposito’s Finest Quality Sausage saw significant growth in club store and cruise line sales. The company now manufactures a full private label line of antibiotic-free sausages. (4)

New York Custom Processing LLC, a very small processing plant, located in Central New York, acquired a rollstock machine to streamline its packing processes in 2014. In addition, NYCP, founded in 2010, was approved for Organic slaughter and processing for its 3rd year, also passed its annual review by the Animal Welfare Approved program for the third year, and successfully completed its third annual third party audit by NSF. (2)

Paradise Locker Inc. is celebrating 20 years of ownership by launching a branded pork program and an online store. A 10,000-square-foot expansion will double its plant size.

In’t Veld’s Meat Market received the Champion 2014 Cured & Smoked Beef (Jerky) for the state of Iowa and has been Grand Champion in the Summer Sausage category two years in a row. The company acquired and began its own distribution company and also reported record sales in the final quarter of the year. (1.25)

Mulay’s Sausage Corp. enjoyed 55% growth. Despite distribution in just the Western U.S., the company ranked #10 in Natural Dinner Sausage and is growing faster than 6 out of 9 companies ranked higher. Its Breakfast Link is ranked #25 in top selling Natural Breakfast meats, and ground breakfast ranked #28. (1)

West Loop Salumi, in its 1st fiscal year in business, sustained a flood during the beginning of the year and lost all inventory, had to process everything again and still turned a profit. As an owner under 30 years old, Greg laketek has been identified as Zagat Chicago’s 30 Under 30, Forbes 30 Under 30, top 11 artisans to watch, top 50 in Chicago foods, and one of the 1000 things to eat before you die. West Loop Salumi is one of the only USDA facilities in Illinois with plans strictly for Non-Heat treated shelf stable products, using 100% all natural and certified meats. (360K)