This month’s cover story brought me to Crescent Springs in Northern Kentucky. (Note to readers: Do NOT call Northern Kentucky “the Cincinnati area” to anyone who’s from there.) I’d been to the region a couple times before, most recently for an AAMP convention several years ago. This time, it was to visit the Rice family at Blue Grass Quality Meats and talk about the company’s long, long history.

I’ve talked to many people who were the second, third or occasionally fourth generation in their family to run the family business. I’ve always loved that aspect of the small and mid-sized meat processing industry. While there’s nothing wrong with having a president with no family ties to a company, there’s a special passion that comes from carrying on a family tradition. I always enjoy talking with processors about their family’s history, and their pride is obvious.

Blue Grass’ family tradition, though, dates back quite a bit farther than usual. The Rice family traces their history in the meat industry to 1867 — two years after the Civil War ended. The members of the family who run it now — brothers Paul and Steve and cousin Dan — are the fifth generation of the Rice family to produce processed meats in Northern Kentucky.

One room in the company’s headquarters is dedicated to the company’s past, and it’s a treasure trove of meat industry history. From some antique sausage making hand tools to walls covered in framed photos, it was a wonderful mini-museum dedicated to one of the oldest meat processing companies in the country.

After the interview, I talked with the management team about the company, and just where it stood in the list of oldest family-owned meat processors. I’ve found some meat companies that date back to the 1830s, but they have gone through multiple owners. Are there any other meat processors in the country that have been run by the same family longer than Blue Grass?

Does your own company’s history extend to the fifth generation — or beyond? Can you trace your company history far back into the 1800s? If you have a long and storied family history in the meat industry, feel free to e-mail me at and tell me about the secret to your family’s long success.