Editor-in-chief Andy Hanacek reflects on the history of The National Provisioner from when he started at the magazine to the present.
Andy Hanacek: When I started on The National Provisioner in October 2005, none of this resembled anything it does today.
First of all, my Chicago White Sox had won the World Series — I know this because the championship parade was my first day on the job — at the 2005 World Wide Food Expo at McCormick Place.
Those days, I didn’t have a laptop computer, let alone wi-fi access, and I still had a personal flip phone (and no work-issued phone).
Like many editors before me, my background was journalistic, not meat-related. My contacts were handed to me by Barbara Young, who said that so-and-so would help with an interview. Barbara had tons of connections, and that Rolodex (and Barbara’s constant mentorship) was of great assistance.
In my earliest days, there were times when we felt as though we were less editors and more salespeople. There were plenty of good times and good editorial stories written, but there were also behind-the-scenes headaches, annoyances, and frankly, on my part, a lot of swallowing of journalistic pride over some of the duties expected of us editors. We made an impact on the industry and had a successful bottom line, but the type of work we sometimes had to do squashed editors’ enthusiasm to boast about even the good.
All that said, there was enough legitimate feature- and profile-writing to keep me happy and help me build my own network of connections and trusted sources.
In 2007, all that changed. Shortly after we were acquired by BNP Media, we decided a major change was necessary to make The National Provisioner the great editorial powerhouse it was once again.
At that time, we wrote our current editorial policy, and officially became a reader-driven, editorially unbiased source of information for processors. Don’t be fooled — while it was a relief to finally restore journalistic integrity to the magazine, I felt as though I was jumping out of an airplane, unsure if there was a parachute on my back.
Fortunately, there was — and it came from you, our friends and readers. We reached out to processors, academics, market researchers and consultants, opening our pages up to those who were experts in their field and could help us educate and inform readers best. We put together an Editorial Board, which contributed articles on a quarterly basis and still writes and advises regularly.
At the risk of leaving someone off, I will say this: Without industry friends such as Lynn Knipe, Gary McMurray, John Johnson, Steve Valesko and others who stepped up big-time in those earlier days — and Drew Lorenz, Suzanne Strassburger, Kurt Vogel, Phil Bass, Dan Emery and others today — I doubt I would have survived the immense stress that had been placed on Sam and I. I thank each of them every time I can for sharing their expertise to make the industry better and help NP publish high-quality information each month.
I’ve experienced more change in my 11 years on the magazine than most people go through in their entire careers, but I’ve learned something from each and every one of the bosses I’ve had and people with whom I’ve worked. Some, of course, more than others. I would be remiss to not thank Ned Bardic for putting me in this position and keeping things constantly moving, and Scott Seltz for the quantum leap he put the magazine through in terms of self-marketing and using common sense to grow the magazine. Chris Luke, our current publisher, has us on that same trajectory. All of them should be thanked for their respect for the experience Sam and I brought to the table.
As for the industry itself — many of you know that I came from Pro Football Weekly magazine by way of our sister publication, Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery. Many times, I’m asked how much more I must have loved that football job over this one, and the answer is always the same.
I’m not a meat scientist; I’m not from a ranching/farming family; I had to learn about the industry from scratch through plant visits, conferences and conversations. At Pro Football Weekly, I immersed myself in football and learned plenty, but I never felt as though my words did anything meaningful.
You have accepted me as part of the greater meat-industry family and taught me more than I ever believed I could have learned. I’m still learning every day, and I’m so happy that I have the ability to give something back — through my words and information — to improve, educate and even entertain everyone, from producers and processors on down to consumers.
I can never thank you enough for your support and friendship.
Now, on to the future.