The bad news was all too easy to find this year, between meat recalls, animal-handling controversies, corporate layoffs, rising corn prices and the corresponding hike in meat prices. The poultry industry, of course, had it particularly bad, as the chicken supply in the country still hasn’t dropped to meet the decrease in demand. It may take months before that industry can stop the bleeding, if it can happen at all in 2012.
That’s not including the perennial problems that plague the industry: studies from “doctors” claiming that eating even a little bit of meat will cause every manner of cancer; activities of animal-rights groups that value headlines more than actually defending the rights of animals; well-meaning federal regulations that would cause more harm than good if enacted.
Fortunately, there was plenty of good news that could make even the most pessimistic person step back from the ledge. Many companies announced major capital expenditure projects, to modernize their operations or to enter into all new markets. Every week, we heard about new product launches, proving that companies aren’t putting their growth strategies on hold.
From personal correspondence, I’ve heard from many executives who said that 2011 was a good year. Maybe it wasn’t a record year, but any growth in troubling economic times is an accomplishment. More than a few business owners have told me that they haven’t felt any effects from the Great Recession or its aftermath.
Perhaps the most heartening event I attended all year was the Meat Industry Hall of Fame. This annual event recognizes the trailblazers of the industry and was held November 1 in Chicago. This year’s honorees, like the previous classes, have spent decades in the industry, improving it with their ideas, their actions and their leadership. The times weren’t always good, and not every idea worked, but they persevered and left the industry better than they found it.
Fortunately, there seems to be no shortage of leaders and innovators. Future Hall of Famers are already steering the industry and preparing it for the future. The Hall’s Class of 2050 is probably entering the business right about now. They’re out of college, they’re rising up the ranks of management, and they have some good ideas about where to take the business to make it more successful than ever. With the right mentoring, they will be well-prepared to step up when it’s their turn to lead.
The economy and regulatory environments may change yearly, but the leaders in the meat industry will make sure there is always some good news in the headlines.