Meat Processor Training Covers Employment, Equipment, Value-Adding

Meat Processing businesses are a potential growth area in West Viginia’s local food economy. With a market consisting of wild game in addition to more niche meat produced on West Virginia pastures, the May 22nd training continued where the first “Meat Your Profit Potential” workshop left off. The day featured Chris Fuller, formerly of Alleghany Meats, as well as representatives from MTS Equipment.

Workforce Training

Download the Alleghany Meats Employee Handbook Example
Download the Sample Farm Manual from Farm Commons

Paying Employees and Incentives

Chris Fuller started with the basics – what to pay your employees. “Your pay level should reflect the value of work,” he said, but cautioned against having wide variance in pay in situations where job duties might overlap.

In an industry with high turnover, having creative incentives and bonuses for employees can go a long way towards retaining staff. Incentives could be monetary, but could also include shares of product, or attending trainings.

Hiring & Firing

In hiring, it may be wise to have a trial period, and be aware that training staff might slow down the organization. Fuller stressed that when he hires staff, he keeps in mind the team he is trying to build, not necessarily individual skills. Less experienced hires may be more open to learning new skills and may not have to unlearn bad habits.

The most important thing to look at in hiring employees is work ethic and good attitude – lack of these can have the most impact on your team, but if an employee does have them, they can create value for your company. When thinking about whether or not to hire new staff, think about the impact on payroll, and ask yourself if you have enough work for new staff. Work in meat processing is often seasonal, so workers can be seasonal as well. Tracking staff efficiency can be done through yield tests, and quality and speed of work.

Firing is difficult, but can be made easier with proper procedures. It should be done as described in your company’s policies & procedure. You should have adequate documentation of employee issues leading up to a termination, which should include signatures from you and the employee.

Training

Take the time to train your employees, and have a detailed employee handbook including all policies and procedures – and take the time train your employee on this. Test them on information that you need them to know. Developing an employee handbook is an important process. You should know it inside and out, and if something is not necessary, it should not be in the handbook.

On the job training plays a huge role in creating an effective team, and is your biggest opportunity to model proper behavior, safety, and technique. There should be no double standards, as these can decrease your efficiency and safety. Lead by example, and set your employees up for success.

In the meat processing business, it can be important to stay positive, especially when the job involves killing and processing animals. Chris Fuller recommended the Orange Frog Training after having gone through it with his employer.

Equipment

MTS Equipment was on hand to show-off some new equipment and explain their service area, which includes the eastern half of West Virginia.  The equipment they brought included a vacuum sealer, a grinder & mixer, a sausage stuffer, and a vertical band saw.

They stressed that as equipment suppliers, they are seeing success in the niche meat industry from a birds-eye view. “We”re seeing the small meat processors grow bigger and faster than ever,” said Bill Wolfensberger, owner of MTS Equipment. “They’re getting larger and doing more business. With value adds like marinades and seasoning, you can take a $2.99 cut of meat, add 25 cents worth of marinade and an hours worth of time, you can sell it for $7 per pound.”

The big take-away was that investing in proper equipment and training will increase the types of products you can make and open up markets that you may not have realized were there.

Value-Added Products

Chris Fuller showed off some of his techniques for adding value to meat products by demonstrating how to use the equipment that was on hand:

Services Available For WV Businesses

Attendees learned about some of the opportunities for West Virginia business development:

What’s Next?

On June 15th and 16th, Swift Level Farm near Lewisburg will host a Management-Intensive Grazing Workshop, led by Jim Gerrish, the leading expert in the study and practice of Management-Intensive Grazing (MiG). Registration information can be found here.

On July 10th, West Virginia Meat Processors are invited to attend a training at Alleghany Meats in Monterey, VA. For more information about this field trip, contact Jennifer “Tootie” Jones by email at swiftlevel@gmail.com.

This training was the result of a collaboration between the Value Chain Cluster Initiative, The Natural Capital Investment Fund, and our own Meat Working Group. Funding for this training was graciously provided by the Central Appalachian Network.

 

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The attendees enjoyed being at Swift Level Land and Cattle

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Chris Fuller discuses the benefits of vacuum sealing.

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Ready for marinade!

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The pastures at Swift Level.

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Preparing to use the combination Grinder/Mixer from MTS Equipment.

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Proper knife safety and sanitation precautions while demonstrating different cuts.

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Using the band saw.

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Ready for some marinade, vacuum sealing, and consumer sale!

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Thanks to Swift Level Land and Cattle for hosting this event!