The Magnificent 11

’Giving credit where credit is due is one of this magazine’s missions.’
I spend at least 50 percent of my time in meat processing plants to the bemusement of family and friends. They are not alone, as I also get baffled looks and snide remarks from co-workers because I work on the “meat” magazine — as opposed to one of our more glamorous pubs.

I didn’t begin my career as an aspiring trade journalist hoping to cover the meat industry. Life happens, however, as you’re busy making plans, to paraphrase John Lennon.
Nowadays my job satisfaction quotient is high, which is why I wanted to get into the heads of people at the middle-management level in the industry to take their pulse concerning their job satisfaction and those under their leadership.
Working behind the scenes, plant managers and their charges on production lines contribute greatly to the health and welfare of this country’s populous, to say nothing of its economic well-being.
Men and women of different sizes, shapes, and nationalities stand on their feet usually eight hours every day, sometimes even on weekends. They work in a room that may be as cold as 40°F. Moreover, they wear all kinds of protective gear that would bother some of us, despite the fact that it is designed for safety.
Their tools are sharp knives or other dangerous equipment. Their work is monotonous whether it be deboning ham, chicken, turkey or beef, or packing product in boxes — even though they may rotate in and out of their regular assignments several times a day.
To be sure, their work is not merely challenging but its significance is beyond measure. They may not protect and serve like police officers or battle infernos to save lives, but their work involves a measure of danger nonetheless. Carelessness can turn into tragedy in an environment where 300 people wielding precision knives work side by side at an unbelievable pace. A disgruntled or unappreciated employee may slip into carelessness and get hurt without intent.
This is where modern management methods make the difference. No amount of workers compensation can replace an eye or limbs. Everybody loses when workers get hurt on the job.
Employees get more than a paycheck for their sweat equity at companies that flourish based on smart business practices. Managers treat them with respect and as essential team members, for they are enlightened leaders who understand that decent treatment doesn’t cost a penny.
I enjoy talking to workers on the line when I visit plants. I like meeting these extraordinary people, who obviously thrive under good management.
You will meet some of these managers in our cover story honoring extraordinary plant managers and their production teams.
Giving credit where credit is due is one of this magazine’s missions. To that end, we intend to continue listening, observing, and learning as much as possible about the workings of the meat-protein industry.
Congratulations to our first group of extraordinary plant managers. We call them the “magnificent 11.”