Zimmerman Quality Meats is a local meat processor, providing its community with conventional retail meats as well as slaughter and processing services, with the ability to process products from harvest all the way to shelf-ready cooked product under one roof. 

Founded in 2003, the Summersville, Mo.-based processor’s foundational customer base consisted of local farmers and hunters seeking services for their own households. The operation now slaughters multiple species under USDA-FSIS inspection, with its current leadership having been in place for eight years, said Jon Cartwright, who co-owns Zimmerman Quality Meats with his brother, Josh Cartwright. 

The company employs around 45 workers, including its full-time and seasonal production and retail staff.

Zimmerman Quality Meats raises some animals for harvesting at their on-site facility while also contracting with other local producers, Cartwright said.

“We have some customers whose products are more commodity driven, so they’re interested in buying bulk from a big packer, and then we have some that are willing to pay a slight premium to get that local source verified,” Cartwright said.

“Custom processing is at the core of Zimmerman Meats’ business,” said Isaac Keene, general manager of Zimmerman Quality Meats.  “We process products under six different HACCP programs, and we package for numerous custom and private labels.”

Plant expansion fuels growth

Keene said Zimmerman Quality Meats is in the process of expanding its further processing capacity, including a recent addition that grew the operation to nearly 19,000 square feet and brought equipment upgrades as well.

Zimmerman Quality Meats produces a wide range of fresh meat products including grinds, Cartwright said, for sale at its retail locations in southern Missouri as well as in collaboration with co-packing partners.

Keene said co-packing and private-label projects are playing an increasing role in Zimmerman Quality Meats’ business, due in part to their enhanced operational agility.

 “We have developed a processing team and facility that is unique among its peers in the agility of its operations,” Keene said. “We can spin up capacity in any of our production lines on relatively short notice. This makes us an appealing partner for customers who have already launched a product or brand, seeking a partner to augment or economize their existing production. “

He said that while custom processing and local family farms will remain an important part of the operation, the company sees the best potential for growth – bringing jobs and revenue into the community – in private-label and co-packing opportunities.

“We do a pulled pork product. We smoke pork butts, and then we pull them out. We sell that under our label at our stores, and we also sell that as a co-packed product through our customers,” Cartwright said.

Zimmerman Quality Meats boasts a wide range of meat products, including fully cooked shelf-stable items such as summer sausage, snack sticks and snack strips, and beef jerky, which it co-packs for private-label in 2- and 5-pound bulk packages. Keene said.

 Zimmerman Quality Meats also markets and co-packs fully cooked cured, smoked pork chops, which rank among their most in-demand items, Cartwright said.

Three retail stores

The company’s retail product lineup includes raw, heat-treated, and ready-to-eat products, products which Zimmerman Quality Meats sells at its three retail stores in southern Missouri.

“We have three retail stores in a 100-mile radius, all in communities of less than 10,000 people,” Keene said. “Our primary day-to-day competition is the nearest chain retailer or big box store, and its commodity-priced pound of hamburger, sausage, or lunchmeat.  In these larger retail and warehouse stores, self-check registers and remote shopping have virtually eliminated personal interactions and relationships between customers and their grocer.  In fact, the retail customer has been commoditized as much, if not more, than the retail product.”

That’s where Zimmerman Meats’ retail business creates a simple but unique value proposition, he said. 

“We offer a clean and modest store, attended by friendly staff, stocked with a basic array of quality meat products at a price point that is within reach for the day-to-day budget of a mainstream family,” Keene said.

“The sooner we can redirect a customer from the website toward a connection with a real person, the better our team will be able to serve them,” he said. “To this end, we’ve actually removed most retail product listings from our website over the past year. “ 

Premium pet food growth

Another area where Zimmerman Quality Meats is finding increasing demand is for premium-branded pet foods, Keene said. 

Keene said one of Zimmerman’s biggest co-packing opportunities in the past year or so has been a ready-to-eat human grade meat product branded for pets.

Zimmerman Quality Meats recently moved to dual USDA/FDA jurisdiction to produce human-grade pet treats for a co-packing customer with national distribution.

 “What we’re seeing is a lot of people who want us to mimic the food we a making for human consumption also for pet consumption,” he said.