Growth is the order of things concerning meat, poultry, and prepared food businesses. I think of it as a way of making a good thing better. In the grand scheme of things, survival often is as good as it gets. Meanwhile, growth may be as challenging as riding on a space ship. In recent years, under the tabloid-TV microscope, the ride has indeed been bumpy as the industry grappled with crisis after crisis.
Every yin has a yang, however. Thankfully, that means confronting not only valleys but also the peaks that emerge, from which to shout about accomplishments with pride. The industry is policing itself on food safety for one thing. New products continue to respond to consumer demands. Efficiency is the name of the game in corporate offices and on the plant floors. Finally, there are the joys of vertical integration - an example of modern efficiency facilitating initiatives allowing producers and processors to connect the dots from animal conception to final product distribution.
Vertical integration is a powerful strategy, to be sure, as it serves to solidify the business platforms of such companies as Wayne Farms and Pilgrim’s Pride, our cover features this month. Moreover, the strategy is the foundation supporting family farms in rural America. Who knows what would happen to these entrepreneurs without the benefits gained from partnerships with processing businesses.
An interesting sidebar involving the Pilgrim’s report, by the way, is the addition of Robert “Bob” Wright to the company’s roster of employees. I met Bob in late 1994, when he was broiler department general manager at the defunct Cargill broiler division. I ran into him again as president of ConAgra’s Butterball Turkey Company. Now he brings his poultry industry experience to Texas for Pilgrim’s Pride.
Based on other career moves I have witnessed on the executive management side of the meat and poultry industry over the years, the necessary human capital is available. Speaking of which, our coverage in 2005 will include several reports targeting all things great and small concerning human capital initiatives. It is no secret that I feel obligated to document issues confronting workers on the frontline – in the processing plants – while featuring them collectively or individually as often as possible. That will not change.
Conventional wisdom says that change is not just good, but in these rocky times can make the difference between growth and stagnation. Moreover, better now means being able to compete in the value-added product arena, which is our collective mission.