Every year around this time, we start making plans to announce the Independent Processor of the Year. Each year, we’ve highlighted one small or mid-sized processor that in our opinion exemplifies all the best qualities of that sector of the industry.

This year was such an unexpected, abnormal year, that it proved to be an impossible task. As in, how do we narrow it down to one company, when so many small processors out there have acted heroically to keep pumping out products at a time when their demand shot through the roof? When the worst tendencies of the largest corporations have dominated the headlines, so many small processors completely overhauled their operations to keep their employees safe. When people did get sick, they shut down to sanitize and regroup – not because the county Board of Health or bad publicity shut them down, but because it was the safest thing to do. So many processors have increased the transparency between themselves and their customers, explaining cleaning procedures, facts and myths about meat shortages and how it will affect prices. When their foodservice clientele closed down, they adapted to new sales strategies. Nobody said at the start of the year, “I’m going to overhaul our manufacturing, retail, distribution and communications efforts within 48 hours.” But many companies had to do just that.

So, instead of honoring one company with the Independent Processor of the Year, we’re honoring everyone with the Year of the Independent Processor. And we need your help.

Starting today, I would like to hear from all the Independent Processor readers about how you have adapted to the Coronavirus pandemic. You can call me, email me or video chat with me. But I want to hear from you. Tell me your stories, your successes, your concerns. Tell me about how your employees handled the changes or how your customers reacted. Send me pictures or videos if you want. If you want your stories to be anonymous, that’s fine. But I want to fight the impression that the meat industry doesn’t care about its employees. I’ve visited too many small plants in the last dozen-plus years to believe that, and I want everyone to see the side of the industry that I’ve seen.

My phone line (770-330-8184) and my in-box (gazdziaks@bnpmedia.com) are open. Talk to me, and we may include your story in our August coverage – in the first all-digital edition of Independent Processor!

Sam Gazdziak