The meat-processing industry, as evidenced by the Top 100 Report, continues to be both extremely stable in some aspects and wildly erratic in others. The companies at the top of the list — Tyson Foods, JBS USA, Cargill Meat Solutions and Smithfield Foods — did not break rank from last year.

Elsewhere on the chart, industry consolidation and current events continue to make an impact. Attrition in the poultry industry means that companies such as Townsends Inc. and Allen Family Foods are nowhere to be found on this year's list. Cagle's Inc. declared bankruptcy last October, and it has sought court approval to sell practically all its assets to an affiliate of Koch Foods. AdvancePierre Foods acquired Barber Foods in 2011, and Odom's Tennessee Pride was just acquired by ConAgra Foods as this issue was being assembled.

It remains to be seen how the biggest story of 2012 will affect the Top 100 list for 2013, but the “pink slime” debacle already has had adverse affects. Thanks to some extremely biased and uneducated reporting, the consumer outcry against lean fine-textured beef has caused its manufacturer, Beef Products Inc., to temporarily close three of its four plants and led a competing grinder, AFA Foods, to declare bankruptcy. How those companies, as well as the processors that sold to or bought from BPI, will fare this year remains to be seen.

In spite of the economic struggles and other pressures that are affecting the meat industry, many companies remain optimistic. When asked about their last fiscal year's performance, 10 of the 38 companies who responded to this question regarded it as their “best year ever,” while another 15 considered it a “good” year. Six more listed it as an “average” year, while four companies characterized it as a “poor” year and three called it their “worst year ever.”

When it comes to this current year, 25 of 38 respondents believe that it will be better than the last year. An additional six said business would be about the same, and seven companies believed it would be worse than this year.

One way to gauge the health of the industry is to monitor companies' capital expenditure budgets. Of the 32 companies that submitted their capital-expenditure information, 11 are spending more cap-ex money this year than last year, while 16 more are spending the same. Although the actual numbers vary from a couple million to several hundred-million dollars, processors appear to be making the necessary upgrades to keep their opreations running smoothly. In particular, several processors mentioned purchasing new packaging equipment, along with plant maintenance and expansions.

For more information about the Top 100 report, including highlights from the Top 100 companies, visit www.provisioneronline.comTo be a part of next year's Top 100 report, please e-mail Sam Gazdziak at


How was your company's last fiscal year performance?

Best Year Ever 10

Good 15

Average 6

Poor 4

Worst Year Ever 3


What are your expectations for the current fiscal year?

Better than last year 25

Same as last year 6

Worse than last year 7


How does your capital expenditures budget compare to last year's?

Larger 11

Same 16

Smaller 5