Small meat processors across the United States have been very busy since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. Some have prospered, and others have not done very well. Often it has been a daily struggle to keep operating. As we start a new year, it would be advisable for the management of small meat plants to take time to assess where they are at and where they are headed. Look at the many parts of your operation and decide on a plan of action for 2022 in each area.

Services and products you provide or want to provide

Review what you are currently doing, how successful you have been in each area, and what your future potential is in each area. Also, consider new areas in which you may want to become involved. Give this some serious thought, as your decisions will guide your company in the years to come. It may very well determine if you are able to stay in business. Areas for you to consider include:

  • Custom processing of livestock for producers

Many small meat processors make custom processing a key part of their business.

  • Processing of livestock for wholesale of fresh meats
  • Processing of fresh meat products for wholesale
  • Production of processed meats for wholesale
  • Production of processed meats for retail sale in your establishment
  • Production of meats for retail mail-order sales

Give some thought to what you are currently good at and what type of operations you can perform in your plant. Remember you can not be all things to all people.

Review the status of your labor situation

Many small meat processors struggle to have as much help as they feel they need. Try to provide your employees with a pleasant work environment. Provide them with some extras such as snacks at break and perhaps lunch once a week. Do not overwork your employees, as that can have a negative effect on their attitude. Have company meetings at least twice a month and give employees a chance to express their concerns. Let your employees know you value and appreciate them.

Review your hours of operation

Make sure your hours of operation make the most efficient use of your employees’ time. If you have an in-plant retail area, you may be able to limit the number of hours it is open each week to make more efficient use of your retail staff’s time.

Review how you communicate with your current customer base and potential customers

Often small meat plants have employees that spend a lot of time interacting with customers and answering questions. If that is the case in your operation you can develop a website that customers can access to get their questions answered. If you already have a website take a close look at it. There may be changes you can make to make it easier to follow and more informative.

Investigate possible economic development grants

The economic development department in some states have developed programs that enable small meat plants to apply for grants to help improve or expand their businesses. You can check and see if your state has any economic development grants available for small meat processors.

Remember: success is not an accident. You need to plan for it.