Poultry processors boost the state’s thriving chicken, turkey industries
Wisconsin is where key poultry businesses find the resources necessary for future growth and success. Leading the way are companies like Jennie-O Turkey Store, a recognized leader in turkey processing with a plant located in Barron; Brakebush Brothers Inc., a Westfield processor of value-added chicken products; and Gold’n Plump, a business unit of Pilgrim’s with a chicken processing plant in Arcadia.
By following the forward-thinking vision of their founders, and utilizing local resources and innovative strategy, these businesses have found a unique advantage: the ability to produce high-quality products while advancing the community at large, a win-win all around.
THE PEOPLE FACTOR
“Jennie-O Turkey Store supports local farmers by purchasing 6.2 million bushels of corn and nearly 83,000 tons of soybean meal used to produce our turkey feed. As the largest employer in northwestern Wisconsin, we employ approximately 1,800 people in the area,” says Brent Koosmann, Jennie-O’s director of marketing.
These diverse team members are not only active contributors within the company, but in their communities as well. Jennie-O takes pride in giving back to the community, a core value defining how it operates today.
“It is our belief that by supporting our local communities through donations and participation, we are helping to build a stronger and successful future for all,” Koosmann says.
This support includes investing in local schools, food help, and community and civic organizations. In 2016, Jennie-O made 185 donations to nonprofit organizations in Wisconsin, including around 18,000 pounds of product for hunger relief efforts.
As the largest employer in Marquette County and a major employer within a 50-mile radius that spans 11 counties, Brakebush provides jobs to over 900 employees in Westfield.
Carl Brakebush, chairman of the board, explains that one of the company’s greatest assets is “the people aspect, including the different cultures and work ethic of our Wisconsin citizens. A lot of chicken companies are being purchased by foreign companies, but we are proud to be U.S. family-owned and -operated.” Further exemplifying this, Brakebush is expanding and adding 90,000 square feet to its Westfield facility, with completion expected in November 2017.
“We are growing and planning to hire more people at Westfield,” adds Steve Ross, marketing manager. “When Brakebush started, it started on relationships, and it continues that way 90 years later.”
THE INNOVATION FACTOR
Continuing the path set by its founding visionaries, innovation begets tradition at Jennie-O and Brakebush.
For Jennie-O, there’s always been a strong commitment to leadership in innovation, and it’s a process that involves the entire team.
However, the innovation process for both companies goes beyond product development and marketing. It also includes continuous improvements at farms and plants. Brakebush’s state-of-the-art computerized poultry processing plants hold multiple production lines with impressive capacities ranging from 5,000 to over 12,000 pounds per hour.
Additionally, recent investments into two new facilities, along with the well-established Brakebush Transportation truck fleet, has allowed the company to meet the ever-changing needs of its customers.
THE QUALITY FACTOR
In recent years, the poultry industry has been hit by a new definition of quality from consumers who are interested in hot-button issues like animal welfare.
Recognizing this important trend, some of the chicken Brakebush purchases is raised without antibiotics and is American Humane CertifiedTM.
Similarly, Jennie-O’s and Gold’n Plump’s experienced production and veterinary teams follow strict measures to ensure the optimum health of their flocks.
All things considered, looking out for the best interests of customers and their communities isn’t a requirement, but for Wisconsin’s poultry companies, it’s just part of the package.
This article was published in Growing Wisconsin magazine | 2017-18.
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