The New Year’s tradition in my house has been to open the back door at the stroke of midnight. Supposedly, that’s supposed to let out the bad vibes of the previous year. Then you close that door and open the front door to let in all the good promise of the coming year. We left the back door open a little longer than normal just to make sure no trace of 2020 was left to linger.

Superstitions may not actually work, but there is always a hope that the New Year is a better one than the previous year. For many in the meat processing industry, 2020 was a profitable year. Yes, there was a nightmare of a pandemic, the collapse of the foodservice industry, and the constant fear that a COVID outbreak may happen on the plant floor. However, there were also many new opportunities and new customers. Food processors never had to close or lay off employees. It left the industry in a relatively strong position.

The strong year may have spurred your company to move up its growth plans. Many processors I’ve spoken with over the past year advanced plans to purchase new equipment, expand existing facilities or build new ones. With the rollout of COVID vaccines and the (hopeful) growth of the restaurant industry, the stars are aligning for an excellent business environment. Meat industry workers should have relatively early access to the vaccine, which should greatly reduce the chances for outbreaks that could disrupt the supply chain. If restaurants are able to safety re-open or expand their dining capacity, consumers will flock to them. After more than a year of fast food and home cooking, we’re looking for a chance to sit at a table, order a fancy meat and not have to cook it.

Of course, there could always be forces beyond our control that might shake up the year; on January 1, 2020, who could have predicted the effects of the Coronavirus on the country? But this should be a time for optimism and for planning. Capitalize on your strengths and keep an eye out for any opportunities that may come your way.

Sam Gazdziak