In conjunction with the coverage of The National Provisioner’s 125th Anniversary, we chose to honor 25 icons who made their mark on industry since 1991. It’s one thing to select all-time icons of industry, but we decided to limit our list to individuals who shaped the industry in the past 25 years only.

Icons were nominated by industry peers and final selections were determined by the editorial staff of The National Provisioner. To be sure, a list of industry icons will spark debate — why was X not on the list? How did you choose Y to be on this list? In an industry as far-reaching and legendary as the meat and poultry industry, there are likely to be differences of opinion.

We believe we have chosen an excellent list — who would be on yours? Let the debate begin:

List Overview:

Allen  |  Brenneman  |  Carpenter  |  Cator  |  Cross  |  Ettinger  |  Garrett  |  Grandin  |  Hodges  |  Koohmaraie  |  Krut  |  Link  |  Luter III  |  Marsden  |  Mucklow  |  Niman  |  Perdue  |  Roth  |  Savell  |  Schledwitz  |  Seng  |  Smith, D.  |  Smith, G.  |  Theno  |  Wheeler

Dell Allen


Kansas State University
Cargill Meat Solutions
Member of the Meat Industry Hall of Fame

Allen has been a highly recognized pioneer of food safety his entire career. However, he was more than a meat scientist who advanced food safety — he also had a significant influence in the realm of customer satisfaction that one nomination called “invaluable to the success of modern meat products” around the world. Throughout his career, Allen worked to implement many technologies that improved product safety and quality, and he reached out to consumer advocacy groups and elected officials to help showcase the livestock industry’s ongoing efforts to provide wholesome, high-quality products from farm-to-fork.


Rod Brenneman


Seaboard Foods/ Seaboard Corp.
Butterball LLC

Brenneman’s work to build and revive two very different processors earns him icon status. From 2010-2014, Brenneman served as president and CEO of Butterball LLC. In that short time, Brenneman revitalized the iconic turkey brand by putting it on a tightly focused growth trajectory (that continues today) and grew the company from $1.2 billion in sales to $1.7 billion. Additionally, Brenneman oversaw enhanced company-wide communication around and dedication to product quality, worker and food safety, and animal welfare, as well as vigorous capital investment in modernization and innovation at numerous facilities. Prior to his tenure at Butterball, Brenneman spent more than 22 years with Seaboard Corp., including serving as president & CEO of Seaboard Foods from 2001-2011, during which time he helped build it into a $1.7 billion dollar pork-processing company.


Barry Carpenter


North American Meat Institute
Member of the Meat Industry Hall of Fame

By the time 1991 rolled around, Carpenter was well into a long career at USDA, when he was named deputy administrator for the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, where he administered the Livestock and Seed Program. Carpenter created the United States’ beef export verification program that was critical to re-establishing American beef exports following the first U.S. case of BSE in 2003. He also oversaw development and authorized video technology for beef yield and quality grading. Since his retirement from USDA, Carpenter has been CEO of the National Meat Association (NMA), and was integral in the two big association mergers in the last decade: NMA with the North American Meat Processors Association (NAMP) to form the North American Meat Association (NAMA), and then NAMA with the American Meat Institute (AMI) to form the North American Meat Institute, for which he is president and CEO currently.



Cardinal Meat Specialists

Cator has worked for Cardinal Meat Specialists for more than 30 years, and today is the president/owner of the company his father founded in 1966. Cator led the Cardinal team that developed the company’s Kettle Cooked process, which eliminates warmed-over flavor profiles and provides a long shelf life and a tender product by using the meat’s own juices, rather than pumping it with water. Under Cator’s watch, Cardinal Meat Specialists has built upon its reputation as an innovator in food safety, processing and product development. Four years ago, Cardinal teamed up with Sysco and Certified Angus Beef to develop its Natural Texture Forming patty-making progress, which offered an innovative, faster-cooking burger to the marketplace. Cardinal was the first Canadian beef processor to receive the HACCP designation in 1998, and the first to utilize DNA lab technology for microbiology (2003). Cator is a past president of the North American Meat Processors Association (NAMP) and has remained visible and involved in its descendant associations (post-mergers).


H. Russell Cross


Texas A&M University
International HACCP Alliance
Member of the Meat Industry Hall of Fame

Cross carries with him more than 35 years of management experience, holding numerous positions in government, academia and the private sector. In the academic sector, Cross was head of the Department of Animal Science at Texas A&M University and the meat and muscle biology section and holder of the E.M. “Manny” Rosenthal Chair in Meat Science. Additionally, in 1994, Cross was the founding director of Texas A&M’s Institute of Food Science and Engineering. His service in government included the role of administrator of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Cross also founded and served as the executive director of the International HACCP Alliance, which represents 24 food associations, 40 universities and the governments of 13 countries.



Hormel Foods

In his eleven years as CEO, Ettinger has grown and diversified Hormel Foods by expanding the company’s product portfolio through innovation and strategic acquisitions. Recent acquisitions include Justin’s, Applegate, CytoSport (maker of Muscle Milk products) and the Skippy peanut butter brand. The company has achieved excellent year-over-year performance, announcing its 50th consecutive increase to its annual dividend in 2015 and its seventh consecutive year of record earnings. Under Ettinger’s leadership, Hormel Foods continues to innovate and invigorate its traditional product lines and create new product lines to meet consumer convenience demands. Ettinger spearheaded the development of SPAMMY®, a shelf-stable poultry-based product that is fortified with vitamins and minerals, to help prevent childhood malnutrition in Guatemala, and also championed Hormel Vital Cuisine, a brand new product line that meets the specific nutritional needs of patients undergoing treatment for cancer.



West Liberty Foods

Garrett has proven to be a true, total visionary, willing to think outside the box and blaze trails with a calculated risk now and then — leading West Liberty Foods to significant growth during his tenure.  Garrett joined West Liberty Foods in 1999 as vice president of Operations, and became president & CEO in 2004. Since he took that position, net sales have more than tripled and manufacturing space has nearly tripled as well. West Liberty has opened several new facilities with Garrett at the helm and taken a leadership role in food-safety innovation. Garrett was the sole visionary for the company’s landfill-free initiative, which has made West Liberty more sustainable and allowed it to divert more than 520 million pounds of waste from landfills since the initiative started in 2012.



Colorado State University
Member of the Meat Industry Hall of Fame

One nomination stated it plainly: “No one has had a bigger impact on the industry in the past 50 years” than Grandin has. While Grandin began to revolutionize animal handling and welfare in the meat industry prior to the 1990s, her influence and iconic status has skyrocketed in the past 25 years. Furthermore, Grandin has mentored a generation of meat science students who have entered the workforce with her philosophies and expertise in their toolboxes. While Grandin revolutionized animal handling design earlier in her career, today she can lay claim to having revolutionized the thinking of a generation of animal-handling experts who will challenge the industry as she continues to do as well.



North American Meat Institute (formerly AMI)
AMI Foundation
Member of the Meat Industry Hall of Fame

Hodges’ career has been dedicated to meat science, and his most notable accomplishments with the American Meat Institute (now the North American Meat Institute) have dramatically improved food safety and reduced the incidence of foodborne illness associated with meat and poultry products. His nomination form states that “colleagues looked to Hodges for practical guidance and insights. Jim was a visionary who could anticipate issues and develop effective solutions. He … was frequently the foundation behind solving many of our industry’s toughest issues.” In the mid-1990s, Hodges spearheaded the Institute’s petition asking USDA to mandate HACCP — a petition that ultimately was granted and which reshaped meat inspection. Additionally, Hodges led the U.S. meat industry’s response to the first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in 2003.



U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, USDA-ARS
IEH Laboratories and Consulting Group
Member of the Meat Industry Hall of Fame

Throughout his career, Koohmaraie has focused his research efforts on the biological mechanisms regulating meat tenderness. Since the early 1990s, Koohmaraie has been heavily involved in leading and conducting research projects to help the meat industry reduce/eliminate E. coli O157:H7 from the red meat supply. He works closely with the members of the meat industry to design projects to address food-safety problems relevant to the industry. The focal point of these projects has been the development of methodology to assess the prevalence as well as the sources of key foodborne pathogens and intervention strategies to reduce/eliminate these pathogens from the red meat supply. Last year, Koohmaraie worked with veal processor Marcho Farms to implement and refine an innovative, comprehensive carcass-testing program designed to replace the processor’s trim-testing program — a proactive tactic in the war against E. coli.



Member of the Meat Industry Hall of Fame

Krut was the face and voice of the American Association of Meat Processors (AAMP) for more than three decades, and as a result of his guidance as executive director (1981-2007), the association grew to more than 1,500 small to medium-sized meat, poultry and food business members. Krut tapped into his background as a former newspaper reporter and public relations director to unite smaller processors into one cohesive voice, appearing numerous times as a guest on television programs and acting as a registered lobbyist for AAMP. His communication skills and industry knowledge helped many AAMP members survive and thrive through a time of serious industry consolidation and strong competition.


John "Jack" LinkJOHN "JACK" LINK

Link Snacks Inc.

Jack Link is the pioneer of the meat snacks category, and the meteoric rise of his namesake Jack Link’s Protein Snacks from a local family business to a $1.3 billion protein snacks business over the last 30 years proves it. Inspired by the idea to begin making jerky using his family’s old-world recipes, Jack began selling jerky to small stores in Wisconsin and quickly sold products into convenience stores before being recognized by Walmart. Today, Jack Link’s Protein Snacks is the global leader in the meat snacks category, offering more than 100 premium protein snack products at retail outlets in more than 40 countries.



Smithfield Foods
Member of the Meat Industry Hall of Fame

Luter took over the family business in the mid-1970s with the company in severe financial distress and made it into a meat-processing powerhouse. By 1991, Smithfield Foods was in full turnaround mode under Luter’s direction. In ’92, Smithfield opened the massive Tar Heel, N.C., processing plant — then the largest pork processing plant in the world. The acquisitions of John Morrell & Co. (1995) and Farmland Foods (2003) added established brands and additional geography to Smithfield’s influence in the U.S. marketplace. Luter pioneered vertical integration in the early 1990s, and the acquisition of Carroll’s Foods in 1999 and Murphy Family Farms in 2000 made Smithfield the world’s largest hog producer. Luter also led the expansion of Smithfield into Poland and Romania in the late 1990s. He retired from Smithfield Foods in 2006.



Smithfield Foods
Member of the Meat Industry Hall of Fame

Marsden’s passion for furthering the cause of food safety has led him to be the “go-to guy” for food-safety insight and expertise. He continues to advance food safety, building upon years of research, publication and presentation of work on biosecurity, food safety, food quality, public health and quality management. His research on controlling E. coli in fresh ground beef and processed beef products has led to the development of several successful interventions, and he also performed research that led to pasteurization technologies for pathogen control on carcasses and subprimal cuts. Today, Marsden continues to lead the industry forward on food safety and was hired by Chipotle Mexican Grill to right its food-safety ship after its fight against foodborne illnesses traced back to its food.



Western States Meat Association/NMA/NAMA
North American Meat Institute
Member of the Meat Industry Hall of Fame

Rosemary Mucklow is one of the meat industry’s most prominent, vocal and engaging leaders and a vigorous advocate for the interests of the nation’s meat and poultry packers and processors, both large and small. From 1982 until 2007, she served as the executive director of the National Meat Association. Few people have made the impact that Mucklow has for as long as she has done so. During her time at the helm of NMA, she was tirelessly engaged on a variety of critical industry issues, such as HACCP implementation, inspection reform and food-safety initiatives. Today, she is director emeritus for the North American Meat Institute (NAMI), working to support the total mission of the organization and to introduce firms to the benefits of membership.



Niman Ranch Inc.
BN Ranch

Niman is a cattle and turkey rancher in Northern California, who has been providing naturally raised beef, pork, and lamb to fine restaurants and retailers for more than thirty years. He is the founding partner of BN Ranch, and founder of the natural meat company Niman Ranch, Inc. Niman animals were always raised using traditional husbandry methods, and eschewing hormones, antibiotics and feed additives. Originally under the name Niman Shell and then Niman Ranch, Niman’s superior-tasting meat products were marketed to San Francisco Bay Area restaurants as their reputation quickly spread. Over the years, Niman Ranch grew to a network of over 700 farms and ranches, which all adhere to a strict code of animal husbandry and land stewardship. Niman left the company in August 2007 and soon founded his current operation, BN Ranch.



Perdue Farms

When Jim Perdue was named chairman of family-owned Perdue Farms in 1991, he inherited a storied brand built upon listening to customers and consumers, a company trusted by both consumers and farmers, and a legacy of trust that went back to his grandfather. Over the past 25 years, Jim continued to keep the iconic Perdue brand relevant, both as chairman of the business and as advertising spokesperson. With expanded frozen, fully cooked products and added brands, Jim guided Perdue’s growth from regional to national distribution and multiple proteins. Under Jim’s leadership, the company’s grain business expanded into a separate division, Perdue AgriBusiness. That division today is a global player in the commodity markets and includes the company’s AgriRecycle business, which dries and pasteurizes poultry litter to create a fertilizer product that is sold and shipped across the globe, removing a significant nutrient load from the local environment.



Beef Products Inc. (BPI)
Member of the Meat Industry Hall of Fame

Simply put, Roth is truly creative. Through hard work and effort, he and the BPI team developed the technology to increase valuable lean beef from what would normally have been underutilized trim. Yes, lean finely textured beef came under (inaccurate) fire several years ago, but Roth’s leadership and vision have allowed the company to rebound from a situation that could have been even more disastrous. Roth’s inventiveness hasn’t been limited to lean finely textured beef, either. He and his team have designed several innovative pieces of equipment to help with refrigeration, freezing and food safety of the products that are produced in BPI’s one-of-a-kind processing facility. He is a renowned food-safety innovator and has spoken on food-safety best practices as well.



Texas A&M University
Member of the Meat Industry Hall of Fame

Savell is a long-time member and former president of the American Meat Science Association, who championed investment in research to improve the quality of beef, pork and lamb. He is a skilled and talented educator who has received more than a dozen awards for excellence in teaching and research. Savell teaches the introductory course in meat science at Texas A&M, where he has taught more than 9,000 Aggies since 1982. He also teaches an undergraduate livestock and meat marketing class, a graduate course in carcass composition and quality, and team-teaches a graduate and undergraduate course in HACCP and a freshmen class on Texas barbecue. Savell has chaired or co-chaired over 130 graduate students who have become leaders in academia, industry, and government. His research efforts have been recognized by receiving numerous university, regional, and national awards for individual and team efforts to solve key issues in the livestock and meat industries.



Monogram Foods

Although Schledwitz doesn’t have the same meat-science background or long-storied history in the meat business as some of the icons on this list, the impact of his success in the meat industry since 2004 cannot be ignored. That year, he founded Monogram Foods with Wes Jackson, and he has served as chairman and CEO since. Monogram Foods began operation with nine employees and today has grown to more than 2,600 employees and a projected 2016 revenue of $650 million, with plans to exceed $1 billion run rate in 2018. Schledwitz and his team employ a flexible business approach, capitalizing on co-manufacturing and licensing deals to manufacture meat snacks, processed-meat products and appetizers in facilities that they’ve acquired and renovated to meet their needs. Monogram Foods has been named to numerous “fastest growing companies” lists, and in 2014, Ernst & Young recognized Schledwitz as an Entrepreneur of the Year.



U.S. Meat Export Federation
Member of the Meat Industry Hall of Fame

As president and CEO of the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) — a position he has held since 1990 — Seng oversees USMEF operations worldwide, providing direction for USMEF strategies and priorities for international marketing U.S. beef, pork and lamb, including research, technical services, industry relations and global communications. He also serves as the primary spokesperson for USMEF regarding international trade policy and foreign market development issues related to U.S. red meat products. Seng played a central role in opening the Japanese beef market, and his marketing strategies and approach to international marketing have received critical acclaim in the business community and served as a case study in the Harvard University Business School. Seng is the only American ever to serve (he served four terms) as president of the International Meat Secretariat.



Tyson Foods

As CEO of Tyson Foods, Donnie Smith’s enthusiasm is contagious, and his passion is the hallmark of his tenure at the helm. Smith guides Tyson Foods to be a company with a conscience, focused on feeding the world great, affordable food, while also making a positive difference in people’s lives. Since 1991, Smith has “been there, done that” in terms of responsibilities at Tyson Foods, having directed everything from commodity purchasing to engineering, food safety and quality assurance to the company’s consumer products division. During Smith’s tenure as CEO, which began in 2009, Tyson’s stock has increased in value more than five times, and the company successfully navigated its way out of the great recession because of initiatives to eliminate inefficiencies and re-dedicate itself to its customers. Additionally, in 2014, Tyson was able to outbid its rivals to acquire Hillshire Brands Co. for $7.7 billion — the meat industry’s biggest deal ever.



Colorado State University
Texas A&M University
Member of the Meat Industry Hall of Fame

Smith is an accomplished researcher, a gifted teacher and legendary mentor to students, professors and technical specialists. He has traveled the world extensively in support of animal agriculture in the U.S. and has received numerous awards. Known to many as the “dean” of meat scientists, Smith is internationally recognized for his efforts in meat science and food safety. His research interests include carcass evaluation and grading; composition, quality and palatability of red meat; red meat safety; and packaging and retailing of red meat; red meat safety; and, packaging and retailing of red meat. For the National Academy of Sciences, he was chairman of the committee that wrote “Irradiation of Meat and Meat Products” and a member of the Committee that wrote “Designing Foods.” For the Office of Technology Assessment, he was a member of the committee that wrote “Packaging and Labeling of Fresh Red Meat.”



Jack in the Box Inc.
Gray Dog Partners Inc.
Member of the Meat Industry Hall of Fame

Theno’s leadership in response to the massive Jack in the Box E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in 1993, and his work to advance collaboration between the scientific community and the meat industry to solve food-safety issues left an indelible mark on today’s food-safety landscape. Theno was hired by Jack in the Box to be its vice president of quality assurance and product safety at the request of top management in March 1993, after the restaurant chain’s burgers were blamed for a massive foodborne illness outbreak in the Pacific Northwest. Theno developed a comprehensive HACCP plan for the chain, as well as a finished product testing protocol that did not sit well with meat processors initially but he called “essential to ensuring product safety” in his Meat Industry Hall of Fame bio in 2012.



U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, USDA-ARS

Wheeler has been involved in so much industry-changing research, this bio barely scratches the surface. Wheeler and his colleagues revolutionized beef carcass grading by developing an on-line, objective system for measuring beef carcass yield grade and marbling score. He also has been a leading contributor to research that has established the importance of the hide as a source of carcass contamination, demonstrated the efficacy of hide interventions, determined that feeding cattle wet distillers grains with solubles increases shedding of E. coli O157:H7, but determined that shedding can be reduced by reducing the level of distillers grains fed at the end of the feeding period, and has validated the efficacy of numerous antimicrobial interventions for hides, beef carcasses, heads and offal meats including demonstrating that interventions used for E. coli O157:H7 were just as effective for non-O157 STECs — among many other projects. NP

Thank you

The editors of The National Provisioner would like to thank all those who nominated individuals and provided information and photographs for this “25 Years, 25 Icons” report. We would especially like to thank the Meat Industry Hall of Fame, the American Meat Science Association and the North American Meat Institute for their assistance with photography and information on some of their members who were honored in this report.