Smucker Family Grows Butcher Business by Adding Value
Smucker’s Meats, a third generation custom processor, is located in Mount Joy, Penn. Established in 1965 by David Smucker, the business is run today by David’s son Jay and Jay’s two sons, Mike and Jason. While the business model has changed over the years, customer service and quality products still guide Smucker’s Meats.
Until a fire forced relocation from Manheim to Mount Joy in 2003, Smucker’s Meats included custom butchering for local farmers, and a thriving retail business, selling meat and a full line of salads at their shop and at local farmer’s market stands.
With the purchase of an older plant in Mount Joy, Jay and his sons refocused on custom butchering for farmers, slowly renovating the plant to meet USDA inspection for processing in 2004, and fabrication in 2005. The Smuckers can process about 50 head of cattle each week, in addition to 15-20 hogs and 10-15 bison. Thirty employees work at Smucker’s Meats in slaughter, fabrication and processing.
Jay gives a simple explanation of their core business. “We don’t buy or sell; we are just the processor,” he explained. “We complete the work order and our customers take it from there.” A smokehouse allows customers to choose jerky and hot dog options, in addition to whole muscle cuts. About 50 percent of their business includes grass fed beef customers, although they also cater to producers of heritage breed hogs.
In 2006, the Smuckers processed their first Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) cattle for Richard and Dave McElhaney, Hookstown, Penn. Although they don’t employ a grader at their plant, Mike said “Our BQA cattle would grade better, because they’re heavier, fatter cattle. BQA producers are strong cattle feeders, with consistent numbers.”
Mike explained that they offer customer packaging to help farmers build their brand recognition and that they “try to keep our pricing structure simple for our customers.” Jay reiterated that their company goal “is to add value to what our customers bring to us.” One way they add value for their BQA customers is including BQA labels on package. “We are always asking the Beef Council for more labels, every time I turn around!” Mike said.
In addition to Pennsylvania, Smucker’s Meats draws customers from a wide geography in the Mid-Atlantic region, including Maryland, Delaware, the Finger Lakes of New York and Virginia. Business continues to grow with butchering scheduled about three months out. “We confirm our schedule and then keep in contact with our customers,” Mike noted. “We also keep a cancel list, so we can fill people in whenever possible. We don’t put people into a box.”
Early adopters of the beef value cuts, such as the flat iron steak and shoulder tender, the Smuckers first showcased the new cuts in 2006. Today, they are “almost standard orders,” said Mike. “Even our bison customers order them!”
Reflecting on the company’s incremental growth each year, Jay noted that they always try to turn challenges into opportunities. “If you have lemons, you need to make lemonade,” he said. “USDA regulations regarding humane handling is a huge challenge for us right now, but without USDA, our opportunity would be very, very limited.”
“What’s key for us is that each of us brings strength to the business,” said Jay. “I serve as general manager, Mike is Food Safety Supervisor, and Jason is Production Manager. When we put our heads together, we can problem-solve.” He continued, “We celebrate and recognize our differences.”
The Smuckers are not intimidated by the larger processors in the market. “I think there’s a place for big agriculture and there’s a place for us,” reflected Mike. “They are feeding the world and we are feeding a niche. There’s a valid place for both of us. We enjoy the niche we have, but it’s incorrect to say we are better.”
To learn more about Smucker’s Meats, visit their website at www.smuckersmeats.com or follow Mike Smucker on Twitter at the handle @tweef32.
Surrounding Owner Jay Smucker, seated, are from L to R: Mike Smucker, David Smucker, company founder, and Jason Smucker.