How often have you heard someone say, “That is the way we have always done it”? There are a multitude of different things involved in operating a small meat business; product manufacture, food safety, regulatory compliance, packaging, labeling, sanitation, product pricing, accounting… the list seems to go on forever. How is it possible for one person or a small group of people to stay current? While it is not an impossible task, it is certainly not an easy one.
There are many different ways that you can learn about new ways of doing things. Some involve self-directed learning that you can do at your own pace while others are more formalized learning situations. The key point is that you must take the initiative to get involved. Nothing will happen unless you initiate it.
Books on meat processing and meat industry trade magazines
There are many excellent books on meat processing and numerous meat industry trade magazines. To see a sample, Google “books on meat processing” or “meat industry trade magazines.” Many meat processor associations also have lists of good resource materials.
Webinars are a very effective way for you to learn on your own schedule. Many associations, organizations and companies offer webinars on a wide variety of topics. There is a fee for some webinars while others are free. The Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network (NMPAN) offers free webinars on a wide range of topics. Check their website for a listing of free archived webinars.
State or Regional Meat Processing Associations
Many states have a meat processor association for companies in their state. Sometimes the local associations are regional and have members from two or more states. I feel it is absolutely critical for small meat processors to belong to and be active in their state or regional meat processor association. Most state or regional associations have newsletters they send to members. They also sponsor workshops and conventions. It is extremely important to participate in your association’s convention. It provides you an excellent learning opportunity and the chance to network with other processors and discuss items of interest.
There are several national meat processor associations that provide a wide variety of services to members. Google “national meat processors associations” for information on these associations. The membership of the American Association of Meat Processors (AAMP) is primarily small and medium sized meat processors. Many state and regional associations are affiliated with AAMP on a national level. AAMP holds an annual convention and members receive a weekly E-newsletter, AAMP Weekly Choice Cuts, which helps keep them in touch with what is going on in the industry.
In-House Employee Training
A good way to share new ideas with employees is to hold in-house training sessions. These can be led by someone in the company with expertise in a particular area. These types of activities help to foster a feeling among employees that they are part of a group and that the company cares about them.
Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP)
Many states have a MEP program which works with small and mid-sized manufacturers to help them create and retain jobs, increase profits, and save time and money. Google “manufacturing extension partnership” to find out if you have a program in your state.