A HISTORY OF THE MEAT PACKING AND PROCESSING INDUSTRY IN MISSISSIPPI
By Robert W. Rogers Professor of Animal Science (Meats), MSU,
Executive Secretary, Mississippi Meat Packers Association
And Director, United States Department of Agriculture-
Agricultural Marketing Service-Livestock, Meat,
Grain and Seed Division
Meat Grading and Certification Branch-Training Program
For Mississippi State University
A HISTORY OF THE MEAT PACKING AND PROCESSING INDUSTRY IN MISSISSIPPI
By Robert W. Rogers
Professor of Animal Science (Meats), MSU,
Executive Secretary, Mississippi Meat Packers Association
And Director, United States Department of Agriculture-
Agricultural Marketing Service-Livestock, Meat, Grain and Seed Division
Meat Grading and Certification Branch-Training Program
For Mississippi State University
Throughout history, meat has been the foremost food of most people of the world. Many groups of
people from various parts of the world, such as the Laplanders, Eskimos and American Indians, have
subsisted almost exclusively on a meat diet for many generations. Several passages in both the Old
and New Testaments of the Holy Bible deal specifically with man’s use of meat in the diet. It
is generally an accepted fact that meat is the center of the American meal. This brief history of
the meat industry in Mississippi will hopefully highlight some of the major points of interest and
personalities related to America’s largest segment of the food industry as they relate to the
Great State of Mississippi.
(From the beginning of recorded history to the 1890’s)
The meat industry has its roots in prehistoric times, since the basic procedures for processing
meat had been well established by the beginning of recorded history. Drying, salting and smoking
techniques were well established long before Homer’s time (about 1000 B.C.) and the spicing
of sausages was common in Europe and in the Mediterranean countries well before the time of the
The meat animals of America (cattle, hogs and sheep) are not native to this country. Cattle may
have reached the western hemisphere by 1007, and Columbus definitely brought cattle, hogs and sheep
to this country on his second voyage in 1493. As a matter of fact, his first voyage was in search
of a shorter route to the West Indies, the principal supplier of spices for sausage products. It is
also recorded that DeSoto, the first white man to discover the Mississippi River, landed 13 hogs in
Florida in 1539. On his journey west, the pig crop multiplied and some remained as strays to become
the famous “Piney Woods Rooters” of Mississippi. DeSoto’s herd of hogs had
reached some 700 head by the time of his death three years later in 1542. Cattle and sheep were
brought to Arizona and Texas from Mexico around 1540 by Coronado. Those cattle were presumably the
forerunners of the so-called native “Mississippi Woods Cattle.”
The first meat packers in America started about 1640 in the New England area and as the
frontiers pushed westward, the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers were used by the early settlers of the
Midwest to transport cured meat from that area to the East Coast, via the Atlantic Ocean, before
and after the War of 1812. Practically all meats were dry salt cured during this time, making salt
a very scarce and valuable commodity. It has been reported that during the Civil War a Mississippi
governor actually traded cotton for salt to Union troops in order to preserve meat for the
Confederate troops of Mississippi.
The meat industry in America, and likewise in Mississippi, was but a magnification of farm
slaughtering and processing procedures until the development of direct-expansion ammonia
refrigeration in the late 1800’s. This development and the development of electricity allowed
the meat processing industry to become a year-round business and not one controlled primarily by
During the late 1800’s there were about 400,000 head of cattle, 2,000,000 hogs and 300,000
sheep in Mississippi but there were no meat packing companies of any significance in this state.
Livestock were primarily raised on open range lands and were predominantly used for home slaughter
or were shipped to St. Louis, Missouri for slaughter. Although little is written about the origin
of the meat industry in Mississippi, apparently his industry had its meager debut around the
beginning of the 20th century.
DEVELOPMENT OF THE MISSISSIPPI MEAT INDUSTRY
During the very late 1890’s and early 1900’s some of the major meat packing
companies of the Mid-West (Swift, Armour and Cudahy) established some distribution points (branch
houses) at various locations along the Mississippi River as well as near some towns served by the
railroads. The predominant meats sold through these branch houses were dry-cured pork (i.e., hams,
bacon, salt meat, etc.), canned meats and lard. At first the customers would pick up these products
from depots or docks and carry them back to their stores. Later on, local delivery was provided by
horse or mule-drawn wagons.
Some of the towns served by these branch houses were Gulfport, Natchez, Jackson, Hattiesburg,
Meridian, Greenwood, Greenville, Vicksburg, Clarksdale, West Point, Columbus and Tupelo. Areas
distant from these towns still relied predominantly on home slaughtered meats or dry-cured and
canned meats and lard from local jobbers (or peddlers) who purchased their wares from the branch
houses and delivered them in horse- or mule-drawn wagons to the small towns and villages of
Mississippi. These jobbers generally worked within a 30 to 40 mile radius of the branch houses.
Mr. Ferdinand Lewis Passbach of Natchez started a meat market and slaughter house in 1902. This
plant was operated by him until 1925 when his oldest son, Joe, assumed the management duties.
Ferdinand Ludvick Passbach, another son, assumed the role as owner and operator in 1930. Meat was
sold in open air stalls, located on Franklin Street, which resembled today's farmers markets. Mr.
Passbach is still involved with this plant (now Passbach Meats Inc.) along with his daughter Mary
Ruth Passbach Maier and son, Dr. Ferdinand Ludvick Passbach, Jr. Passbach Meats Inc. is the oldest
meat company in Mississippi Still in operation and it has always been owned and operated by a
single family. Incidentally in 1965, the younger Passbach, Ferdie, was the first student to receive
a graduate degree (Masters) in Meat Science at Mississippi State University.
Another early meat packing company in the Natchez area was the Natchez Dressed Beef Company. The
slaughter operation resulted as a marketing outlet for Robert Lee Parker, Sr., who moved to Natchez
from Louisiana in 1884. His land holdings included Jackson Point (south of Natchez), Yucatan and
Karnac Islands (Claiborne County) and Palmyra Island (Warren County). On his 20,000 acre stretch he
ran 1500-2000 head of cattle.
Parker began a meat packing operation about 1904. The slaughter house was located in the area
where the Holiday Inn presently stands, and the retail outlet was on Commerce Street in downtown
Natchez. The Natchez Dressed Beef Company supplied boats traveling the Mississippi River along with
local demands. Most of the cattle slaughtered were taken from the Parker herds, and some were
purchased from local farmers. All cattle were driven to market until 1930, when Parker purchased a
1928 Model “A” Ford truck for hauling. The slaughter operation successfully continued
until it closed in 1950.
Mr. J. C. Bryan, Sr. opened a retail butcher shop, on Murff Row, in West Point in 1909. He soon
began to ship small quantities of meat to other meat markets in the area. After the death of Mr. J.
C. Bryan, Sr. in 1930 his two youngest sons, W. B. and John H. inherited the meat market. In 1936
they formed a partnership, invested $3,000, and built Bryan Brothers Packing Company. The building
program has been continuous since that time and no money has ever been borrowed to operate this
company. Mr. B. Bryan started buying Livestock for his father’s meat market when he was 12
years old. At his time in history it was customary to buy livestock by the head instead of by the
pound. Shortly after the death of Mr. B. Bryan in 1968 the name of the company was changed to Bryan
Packing Co., and it soon became a division of Consolidated Foods, Inc. of Chicago, Illinois. The
first president of Bryan Packing Co. was John H. Bryan, Jr. (Johnny) and the company name was soon
changed to Bryan Foods, Inc. Mr. John H. Bryan, Sr. retired in 1973 and 1974 Johnny moved to
Chicago to become the Executive Vice-President of Consolidated Foods, Inc. He soon advanced to
President and Chief Operating Officer of Consolidated Foods, Inc. and then finally to Chairman of
the Board and Chief Executive Officer in 1976, the position he currently holds.
After Johnny Bryan moved to Chicago his younger brother, George W. Bryan, became the President
of Bryan Foods, Inc. in 1974. In 1979 Bryan Foods, Inc. acquired another plant in Little Rock,
Arkansas and in 1983 they acquired a plant in Calhoun, Georgia.
In the summer of 1983 George was promoted to Senior Vice-President of Consolidated Foods, Inc.,
and was placed in charge of all its meat companies. He then established an office building in West
Point from which to direct the activities of the meat division of Consolidated Foods, Inc. At the
present time this list of meat companies includes Bryan Foods, Inc., Smokey Hollow Foods, Kahns,
Hillshire Farms, Lauderdale Farms, Rudy’s Farms, Calhoun County Meats, Standard Meats, Gallo
Salame, and Hi-Brand Meats.
After George assumed the new position with Consolidated Foods, Inc., Mr. Lee Kramer assumed the
post of President of Bryan Foods, Inc. in July of 1983. Mr. Kramer became the first chief executive
officer of Bryan’s who was not a member of the Bryan family.
The Bryan company is responsible for several “FIRSTS” in the Mississippi meat
industry. It was the first meat plant in Mississippi to go under federal meat inspection. This
happened in 1950 and it allowed them to be the first meat plant in the state to sell products to
the U.S. government, to foreign countries or to buyers in other states.
The Bryan company was the first commercial meat canner in Mississippi. This activity began in
1938. The Bryan name has subsequently become synonymous with the words “vienna sausage”
and “oil sausage” to most representatives of the nation’s meat industry.
The Bryan company was also the first meat company in the state to formally set up a Quality
Control Division with rigid quality control procedures and product standards exceeding those
required by U.S.D.A. This activity was begun in 1961 by Mr. Albert Lozes and it stands today as one
of the best Quality Control Divisions in America. This division has also expanded to include a new
product development section, another first for Mississippi meat companies.
The Bryan company was also the first meat company in Mississippi to have it’s own Home
Economics section, to use computers in figuring sausage formulations, to have a formal Marketing
Division and to have its own spice company, Flavotech, Inc.
Likewise, Bryan was the first meat company to establish a practice of hiring technically trained
college graduates for first, second and third line management positions in the company. A very high
percentage of these individuals are graduates of Mississippi State University.
Bryan Foods, Inc. is the largest meat packing company in Mississippi, with over 1 million square
feet of production facilities, 2,100 employees, production of 8 million pounds of products per
week, and some 10,000 accounts in America as well as several accounts in foreign countries. Bryan
Foods, Inc. is considered one of the best meat companies in America. Currently Bryan Foods
slaughters about 5500-6500 hogs and 400-500 cattle per day.
Thought to be the first independent meat packing plant in Mississippi, Jackson Packing Company
began operating on South State Street in Jackson around 1928 or 1929 under the ownership of I. M.
Beasley. During that time, slaughtering was done in the old Raines Slaughter House on South
Gallatin Street. Prior to that time, Beasley had owned Jackson Provision Company in the early
twenties but sold out to Leroy Ratliff.
In 1932, Beasley and Roy T. Boteler build Jackson Packing Company at its present location on
South Gallatin Street. Robert Brown designed the initial structure of Jackson Packing Company and
killed the first cow processed at its present location, where he worked until his retirement.
Brown recalls that in the early thirties cattle slaughtered by Jackson Packing Company were
mostly Jersey types grown locally, with maybe one red cow in two or three hundred. About that time,
during the Great Depression, canner cattle were bought for one-half cent per pound. They sold
bologna for five cents per pound, lard for five cents, salt pork for three and one-half cents, and
sausage ten cents. At that time, beef carcasses sold for eight and on-half cents per pound.
Before auctions were started in the state, cattle were bought in the countryside and driven or
hauled to the packing company for selling. In 1936-37, Brown said, a definite improvement in the
quality of cattle could be noted at Jackson Packing Company. Through and soon after World War II,
baby beef comprised a high percentage of the kill. Then later, as feedlots opened up in Texas and
the Midwest, they drew the feeder calves away from the kill floors to be fed into heavy beef.
Mr. Beasley was also associated with meat plants in Hattiesburg and Meridian that ultimately
became Central Packing Company of Hattiesburg and Owen Brothers of Meridian. The management and
ownership of Jackson Packing Company was assumed in 1945 by Mr. John Bowman. After his retirement,
the plant was then operated by Mr. Ernie Jenkins and most recently by Mr. Howard Kelley. Majority
ownership of the company is still in the Bowman family. Jackson Packing Company terminated cattle
slaughtering activities in 1975 but still slaughters and processes about 600-800 hogs per day.
Tant Sausage Co. was founded in 1933 by Mr. And Mrs. Grady Tant in Laurel. The name was changed
to Tant Packing Co. in the mid 1940’s. They purchased Bethea Packing Co. of Laurel in 1954
and the name was changed to Valley Farms, Inc. in 1960. Valley Farms, Inc. was managed by Jimmy
Tant and his brother-in-law, Chuck Hutchinson, after the death of Mr. Grady Tant in 1958. Mr.
Hutchinson left Valley Farms in the mid 1960’s to go in partnership with Mr. Herman Long to
form General Meat Co. of Laurel in 1965. General Meat Co. is located in the commissary building at
the old National Guard base and is primarily a manufacturer of smoked sausage products. Slaughter
and processing activities were conducted at Valley Farms until 1970; since then they have been
primarily processing smoked sausage. Valley Farms, Inc. is a federally inspected plant.
A young man from Clinton, Kentucky, Mr. I. W. Spicer, moved to Tupelo in 1935 and set up a
livestock auction market in partnership with Mr. Huey long. This famous livestock market was at one
time the largest dairy cattle auction market in the world. The name of this market was S ∓ L
Livestock Auction. In 1941 Mr. Spicer and Mr. Long bought some used meat processing equipment from
a plant that had closed in nearby New Albany and started a small meat plant known as Mid-South
Packers. Mr. Spicer was in charge of the operation but Mr. R. J. Crenshaw actually ran the packing
house for several years.
In 1949 Mid-South Packers merged with Queen City Packing Company of Greenville and took on a new
associate Mr. Roy St. Clair of Queen City Packing Company. Two years later, in 1951, Mr. Spicer
traded his stock in the Auction Company to Mr. Long for his stock in the packing house and
Mid-South Packers was operated by the Spicer family (Mr. I. W. Spicer, 1941-1960, and by his son,
Mr. Ferrel Spicer, 1960-1976, and son-in-law, Mr. Todd Agnew-husband of Evelyn “Siddy”
Spicer Agnew) until the company was sold to Bluebird Foods, Inc. of Philadelphia, PA in 1976.
Mid-South Packers was inspected by a city inspector from 1941 to 1951, at which time the company
went under federal inspection. After going under federal inspection and being allowed to sell
nationwide, the Southern Bell Brand of “whole-hog-sausage” became the nation’s
standard for pork sausage quality. Mid-South Packers perfected the process of “hot
boning” pork and making it into sausage. This process, boning out pork carcasses immediately
after slaughter (i.e., hot boning) to make “whole hog sausage” or “top quality
sausage,” is the industry standard throughout the world today. This process was started at
Mid-South by Mr. Henry Moore and is used today by such national companies as Jimmy Dean,
Bryan’s, Odom’s Tennessee Pride, William’s, Rudy’s, Old Folks,
Webber’s, and Purnells.
Following the acquisition of Mid-South Packers by Bluebird Foods, Inc. several individuals have
served as the company’s president or chief operating officer. They were Fred Trinkle, Jack
Riley, Ted Stuebi, Leo Balanes and currently Henry Lemmons.
Mid-South Packers is owned by Bluebird Foods, Inc. and is a sister company to Agar Packing
Company, Patrick Cudahy Packing Company, and DAK, Inc. Bluebird, Inc. and the Keystone Foods group
are owned and operated by Northern Foods U.S.A. of England. Mid-South Packers currently employs 850
people and is the second largest meat packing company in Mississippi. The company quit killing
cattle in 1976 but currently slaughters and processes about 2500-3500 hogs per day.
In the early 1930’s, Mr. I. M. Beasley started Central Packing company in Hattiesburg. In
1938 the Merchants Company (a wholesale grocery distributing company) started jobbing meat products
for Wilson Packing Company of Chicago, Illinois. In 1951 the Merchants Company purchased Central
Packing Company, a state inspected facility, and started their own packing company. The first
manager of the packing company was Mr. R. D. Spencer. In 1961 the Hattiesburg flood caused many
problems to the packing house. While the building was flooded, there was an explosion and fire that
totally destroyed the plant. In 1962 a new plant was built and the name changed to Pine-Burr
Packing Company and federal inspection was instituted. Mr. James Triggs became the plant manager in
1966. About 300 hogs per day and 100 cattle per day were slaughtered and processed in this
facility. Mr. Triggs managed the plant until it closed in December 1981. The Merchants Company
still distributes meat and meat products purchased from various other packers.
Mr. Robert Vincent built Delta Packing Company in Clarksdale in 1938, which was the first real
meat packing company in the Delta area of Mississippi. Delta Packing Company operated under that
name until 1978 when C. F. (Pete) Vincent closed this facility and erected a new federally
inspected facility called Vincent International Inc. Vincent International is a specialty house,
producing such items as fried pork skins, chili, corn dogs, seafood gumbo, etc.
An interesting thing about Delta Packing Company is that during World War II much of the labor
force was comprised of German prisoners of war held in camps in the Mississippi Delta area. Some of
these people were used to slaughter animals and process meat for local Mississippians. These
Germans imparted some of the unique knowledge and skills about the meat industry for which their
nation is famous. There was a great need for meat items during this time because all meats were
rationed throughout the U.S. to provide enough meat for the U.S. military forces and allies.
Another point of interest is that from 1943 to 1945 all meat processed in meat plants or
slaughter houses, etc. had to be graded by U.S. meat graders. This was done in an attempt to
control the “Black Marketing” of meat products. However, many people slaughtered
animals during this time and sold meat, usually at pretty high prices, even though it was against
the law. Several “poor people” cam out of World War II as “wealthy people”
because of their involvement in the “Black Market” meat business. At no other time in
the history of the U.S. has grading been a mandatory activity; likewise, at no other time has the
grading of meat been done at the expense of the U.S. government. With the exception of this time
period, all meat grading activities have been paid for by the meat industry on a user-fee basis
(i.e., those companies that want graded product must make arrangements with the U.S.D.A. Meat
Grading Branch and pay U.S.D.A. for having the grading work performed).
In 1939 three brothers, Bob, Harry and Bruce Robinson, started Robinson Brothers Packing Company
in Batesville. This facility was closed in 1974 after a fire destroyed a major portion of the
Four brothers by the names of Narry, Jack, Ike and Curtis Dedeaux started a meat market in the
late 1930’s in Gulfport. Soon after opening the meat market, they began to supply restaurants
on the Gulf Coast with meat products. In the early 1940’s the company became a packing house
with slaughter and processing activities. They also jobbed various products for other packers.
Narry was the President, Jack the General Manager, Ike the Plant Superintendent and Curtis the
Sales Manager. Incidentally, Curtis was also the sheriff of Harrison County at one time. Mr. Walter
Leggett, a native of Kentucky and a graduate of Bowling Green Kentucky Business College, was the
company Treasurer. Mr. Walter was known throughout Mississippi and was considered to be
everyone’s friend. Dedeaux Packing Co. was closed in the early 1970’s.
The first locker plant in Mississippi was started in the late 1930’s in Tupelo by Mr. R.
G. (Ray) Purnell. The name of the company was Quick Frozen Foods, Inc. He noticed that much of the
product brought in was poorly prepared and packaged so he began to offer to properly prepare and
package the products for freezer storage. For his services, he would charge a processing fee. Many
people could not pay the fee so they would give him some of their product (chickens, pork, beans,
etc.) to pay for the processing. He would then sell those products to the “city folks”
that didn’t have fresh farm raised products. In the early 1940’s he changed his
business to processing only poultry products and changed the name of the company to Purnell’s
Pride Inc. This company has continued to be a very successful poultry processing firm and in the
late 1970’s they purchased a meat company, Randy’s Steaks of Tupelo, and again became
involved in the red meat industry. Purnell’s Pride was recently sold to the Marshal Durbin
Co. of Alabama.
The Forest Frozen Food Locker plant was opened in 1944 by Mr. Joe Hunt. The name was changed to
Little Princess Frozen Foods, Inc. in 1966 when it was purchased by Mr. Fred Gaddis. Mr. Pat Barnes
is currently the manager and has been since 1966. The company is now primarily a wholesale jobber
of products for other companies in addition to performing customer slaughtering and processing
procedures for local customers.
It was during the mid 1940’s that retail grocery stores first started handling
refrigerated fresh meats. The meat counters were all of the service type, that is, the butcher
would cut and wrap cuts at the request of each customer. Some stores would have small displays of
pre-cut meats but the meats were displayed on open trays or in small tubs and when the customer
chose that he or she wanted it would be weighed and wrapped in butcher paper.
Self-service meat counters were not introduced in Mississippi until the mid 1950’s. This
type of meat merchandising was, and is, very popular and soon practically all meat counters were of
the self-service type.
As previously mentioned in the section about Jackson Packing Company, Mr. I. M. Beasley had
started a small plant in Meridian, along with a partner Marvin Owens. In 1945 Mr. Marvin Owens and
his brother, Mr. Thad Owens, assumed ownership of Owen Brothers Packing Company in the facility
that had been operated by Mr. Beasley and Mr. Owens. The plant was a state inspected facility
(could only sell product in Mississippi) slaughtering and processing about 250 hogs and 100 cattle
per day. The original manager of the plant was Mr. Jerry Wooten.
Owen Brother Packing Company was associated with Owen Brothers Stockyards throughout its
existence. The stockyards was a major marketing facility for all types of livestock in the Meridian
area. It was also known as one of the major trading places for mules and horses (however, they were
not used in the packing house). The Owen Brothers plant was closed in 1973 although the stockyards
continued in operation.
In 1946, Mr. Gordon Ray Comer returned to Aberdeen from serving in the armed forces during World
War II and opened a small frozen food locker plant. This company changed with the times and became
Comer Packing Company. Mr. Comer and his only child, Jimmy, continue to operate Comer Packing
Company as a meat packing company and as a “jobber” or “wholesaler” of
products produced by other companies.
The Jackson area had a unique business which began operations in 1946, BIC Inc. BIC was the
abbreviation for Bill’s Institutional Commissary and was started by Mr. Bill Hogg of New
Orleans, Louisiana. The business was also unofficially known as “Bill the Distributor”
for many years. This business started as a wholesale distributorship of non-meat items to retail
stores. In 1951 Mr. Don Brantley, formerly with the A ∓ P Co., was hired by BIC and the company
began distributing meat items to restaurants, cafes and hotels. They began with about five or six
meat items (beef patties, veal cutlets, stew meat, boneless roasts, etc.) but now sell about 450
separate items and service about 2,000 accounts in the Southeast and Southwest. They were the first
company to sell frozen meat items to food service outlets in Mississippi, a practice that is now
common throughout the nation. In 1957 a separate corporation was formed to process meats for BIC as
well as to sell meat products to other outlets. The name of this meat company is National Sales
Inc. and it is a sister company to Valley Food Service and Steak Shoppes, which are all subsidiary
companies of Trend Line Inc. Trend Line Inc. is chaired by Mr. Hogg.
BIC and National Sales now have the largest frozen food storage facility in Mississippi (60,000
sq. ft.) under one roof for a single company’s use. The entire company has about 200,000 sq.
ft. of processing and storage facilities, employs about 350 people, and is one of the largest
purveyor type organizations in the Southeast. BIC also has distribution centers in New Orleans,
Louisiana; Shreveport, Louisiana; Memphis, Tennessee and Birmingham, Alabama.
National Sales Inc., under the direction of Mr. Brantley, was the first meat plant in
Mississippi to start operations under the new Total Quality Control (TQC) program of U.S.D.A. Meat
Hernando Packing Company began in Hernando in the early 1950’s and was owned by Mr. Cecil
McCandles. Glover Packing Co. of Roswell, New Mexico purchased the facility in 1962 and operated
the plant until 1979 when they sold it to Mr. Don Swanson, Mr. Walter Huffman, and Mr. Jim
Jennings, the three principle managers of the company while it was owned by Glover Meats. This is a
federally inspected plant generally classified as a cow killing and boning plant and processes
about 200-300 cattle per day.
The early 1950’s was also the time when another cow killing and boning plant was started
in Mississippi. Shaw Packing Co. was opened in Grenada by Mr. Dicky Hall. The plant was sold to
Redfern Foods of Atlanta, Georgia in 1957 and the name changed to Pioneer Beef Co. Redfern operated
the facility under the direction of Mr. Don Williams and Mr. David Childers for several years;
however, in 1983 Mr. Williams and a group of local investors purchased this company from Redfern
Foods and continue to operate the facility as Pioneer Beef Co. Presently this is a cow killing and
boning plant, handling 600-700 cows per day, but plans are presently being implemented to start
some further processing activities.
The only national meat packer to build a packing house in Mississippi was Swift ∓ Co. This
was done in Jackson in 1952 and it was primarily a cow and calf killing plant to supply
Swift’s east coast customers with lean cow carcasses, which were preferred over the fatter
cows of that area. Mississippi also had a good supply of “killer calves” and these were
shipped with either the hide on or were cold skinned before being shipped. The Swift plant was
closed in 1968.
Mr. Joe Mosby, Sr. started a sausage plant in Meridian in 1958. In the late 1960’s his
son, Joe Jr., graduated from Mississippi State University and went home to work in the family
business, Mosby Packing Co. This is a small full-line company that has been state inspected since
its beginning. On Christmas Eve of 1983 the plant burned. Presently the plant is under renovation
and will be a federally inspected plant when construction work is completed.
In 1960 Mr. Joe Casio started Enterprise Meats in Petal. This was a cow killing and boning
operation in which about 100 head per day were processed. The company was closed in 1979. After a
short while a farmer cooperative bought the facility and renovated it to be a pork slaughter and
processing facility. The plant operated only for a month or two and was then closed due to a lack
of money and sales.
In 1961 American Packing Co. of St. Louis, Missouri started a federally inspected processing
plant in Booneville. In 1974 East Asiatic Co. of Copenhagen, Denmark purchased the facility and
continued to operate it under that name until 1982 when the name was changed to Plumrose, Inc.
Plumrose is a sister company to other units in Los Angeles, California and Elkhart, Indiana. Mr.
Bill Eaton has been the General Manager for several years. The primary activities of this plant are
further processing of imported meat products from Europe as well as the manufacturing of canned
hams, corned beef, turkey rolls and canned bologna. This is the only plant in the U.S. that makes
Mr. Bill Graves started Winona Packing Co. in Winona in 1965. Bill is the son of Mr. Harry Ewing
Graves, a livestock producer and auction market operator, who is known as one of the first people
in the area to bring good Hereford and Angus breeding stock into Mississippi. Mr. Harry came to
Mississippi in 1922 from St. Louis, Missouri, where he had operated a livestock commission firm.
Winona Packing Co. is a small but successful plant operated by “our only Ole Miss.
Graduate” in the meat packing business in Mississippi.
McCarty and Holman, a major wholesale grocery company, and owners of Jitney-Jungle Stores of
America, Food Center Warehouse Stores, Jitney-Jungle Jr. Stores and Sack and Save Stores started
their own meat fabrication plant in Jackson in 1973. This facility was managed first by Mr. Bill
Wallace and then later Mr. David Essary. The primary function of this facility, known as Meat Plant
81, is to buy and fabricate meat products for the retail outlets of the McCarty and Holman
MISSISSIPPI MEAT PACKERS ASSOCIATION
In 1955, under the leadership of Mr. John H. Bryan, Sr. and Mr. John Bowman of Bryan Brothers
and Jackson Packing Company, respectively, the larger meat companies organized an association of
their own. This organization was the Mississippi Independent Meat packers Association, and
membership was restricted to Mississippi-owned and-operated meat packing plants. In 1967 this
organization elected Dr. Robert W. Rogers as its first Executive Secretary, a position that he
still holds. In 1971, the Mississippi Frozen Food locker Association merged with the Mississippi
Independent Meat Packers Association and renamed this organization the Mississippi Meat packers
Association in 1974. At this time the membership requirements were changed to allow membership for
Mississippi owned and/or operated meat packing and processing plants. This organization is
considered by many to be one of the strongest and most influential state meat packer associations
in the U.S. This is true because some of Mississippi’s finest leaders have served as officers
or directors through its tenure. Some outstanding leaders which have contributed to this success
were and are: John H. Bryan, Sr., W. B. Bryan, John H. Bryan, Jr., George W. Bryan, Ernie Hicks,
Roy Greene, Fox Haas and Reece Griffin (Bryan Foods Inc.); Ferrell Spicer, Todd Agnew, E. A.
Jernigan, Billy Maddox, Wiley Miller and Henry Lemmons (Mid-South Packers); Don Williams and David
Childress (Pioneer Beef Co.); Don Swanson, Walter Huffman and Jim Jennings (Hernando Boneless Beef
Co.); Bill Graves (Winona Packing Co.); Narry Dedeaux and Walter Legett (Dedeaux Packing Co.); John
Bowman, Ernie Jenkins and Howard Kelly (Jackson Packing Co.); Pete Vincent (Vincent International);
Gordon Comer and Jimmy Comer (Comer Packing Co.); Herman Long (General Meat Co.); Jimmy Tant and
Chuck Hutchinson (Valley Farms); Pat Barnes (Little Princess Foods); Ray Millette and Harold
Neville (Owen Brothers Packing Co.); Joe Mosby (Mosby Packing Co.); Buddy Scarbrough (Jackson
County Packing Co.); F. L. Passbach, Sr. and F. L. Passbach, Jr. (Passbach Meats Inc.); Don Manley
and Russell Corey (Boetler and Corey); Blair Warner (Randy’s Steaks); David Essary and Bill
Wallace (Jitney-Jungle Stores of America); James Triggs and J. C. Bufkin (Pine-Burr Packing
The associate members (or suppliers) have always been a vital part of the Mississippi Meat
Packers Association. Any history of the association or the meat industry in Mississippi would be
incomplete without mentioning some of the colorful individuals of this group. Some of the more
memorable suppliers that have served and/or are serving the Mississippi meat industry are: E. H.
Bush, Kenny Bush and Mike Bush – Rebel Butcher Supply; Bruce Wells, Rodney Schiltz, Arthur
Sullivan and P. D. Bartholomew – Griffith Labs; Ed Gazeway and Tom Gazeway – A. C. Legg
Spice Co.; Casey Gray – Pee Dee Spice Co.; Kayo Dottley – Dottleys Spice Mart; Ralph
Heflin, Tony Inzinna – John R. White Co.; Bill Keeler, Mike Miller – Oxford Chemical
Co.; Bob Million, Joe McDermid, Al Heavey – Baltimore Spice Co.; Harry Pursley – Cudahy
Dasing Co.; Lew Peggs – Omeco-St. John Co.; Harry Davenport, Bob Goostree – Tee Pak,
Inc.; John Copeland, Sal Gaglia – Union Carbide Inc.; Ned Morris – Jamison Door Co.;
Homer Brown, Don Davis, Al Copeland – Southern Saw Service; Bill Casey – Milwaukee
Seasoning Labs; Dan Flynn – Shamrock Inc.; Harry Sparks – H. L. Sparks and Co.; Gene
Boynton and Buster Monk – Cryovac Inc.; Bill Simon – Griffin Industries; Owen Vickers,
Jim Kennedy – Birmingham Hide ∓ Tallow Co.; Dean Kittell – Flavorite Labs; Noel Hall
– Standard Laboratory; Red Summerlin – Industrial Scales ∓ Sales; Ellis Bryant
– KOCH Inc.; Buford Moyers – Hobert Inc.; Stan Frost – Curwood Inc.; and Denny
Denmon – Denmon Equipment Co.
The history of the meat industry in Mississippi would not be complete without a section relating
to meat inspection. The very first meat inspection known to man was the Mosaic Law as is recorded
in the book of Leviticus (chapter 11 verses 1 – 47) and Deuteronomy (chapter 14 verses 3
– 21). The Mosaic Law was rescinded for Christians by Jesus Christ as is recorded in Mark
(chapter 7 verses 19 – 23) and Matthew (chapter 15 verses 10 – 20).
Meat inspection did not really begin on a national basis until 1891 when the first interstate
meat inspection law was passed. This law didn’t really provide adequate inspection. Around
the turn of the century Mr. Upton Sinclair wrote a book, The Jungle, which caused a lot of turmoil
about the need for better meat inspection in the U.S.
In 1906 the Congress of the U.S. passed the first really meaningful meat inspection law. This
law required that all meat to be sold to foreign countries, to the federal government, or to be
shipped across state lines to be inspected by the federal government. The individual states, or in
some cases cities and counties, had a variety of generally weak laws and ordinances concerning meat
inspection. In Mississippi, the first meat inspection program was administered by the State Board
of Health. This was a voluntary program for plants that wanted to promote inspected meat. However,
it was referred to as “Two Bit Inspection” by many. It was called this because the
packers would pay the veterinarians 25 cents/head to have the carcasses inspected. Generally the
inspector would leave his inspection stamp with the packer to use and came by at the end of each
month to collect his money for each animal on the plant’s purchase invoices for the month. It
has also been reported that some plants had to pay for the inspection and some did not, depending
upon the politics of the time.
In 1960, by order of House Bill 260 of the Mississippi Legislature, meat inspection activities
for the state were transferred to the office of the Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce. That
law required the mandatory licensing of all meat plants, but continuous inspection was still
voluntary and was paid for by the plants desiring this inspection service. Dr. Sam Cox was hired as
head of the new inspection program, a position he still holds today.
On Dec. 15, 1967, President Lyndon Johnson signed a new meat inspection law that has probably
had more influence on the meat industry than any other single law. This law is known as “The
Wholesome Meat Act” and requires all meat entering commerce in the U.S. to be inspected by
standards “at least equal to” those of the federal inspection system.
One provision of this law allowed the states to pass identical legislation or to have their
inspection programs automatically taken over by the federal system. Mississippi chose to set up its
own law to be in compliance with the federal law. However, this was not an easy task to do at that
time since the typical Mississippian did not want Washington telling them what to do about
anything. The author remembers being asked by Mr. Jim Buck Ross, the Commissioner of Agriculture
and Commerce, to meet with a joint session of the Mississippi Legislature to encourage the passage
of a Mississippi Meat Inspection Law and to answer questions about this very long and complicated
piece of legislation. This was certainly a memorable occasion for a young college professor, who
was not a native of Mississippi and thus was not very familiar with Mississippi politics.
The Mississippi Legislature did pass the Mississippi Meat Inspection Act of 1968 (Senate Bill
1830) and on Jan. 12, 1971 Mississippi became the 24th state to have an inspection program
certified as “equal to” the federal program. This bill was introduced by Senator Joe
Mosby, Sr. of Mosby Packing Co. of Meridian, along with Senators Molpus and Caraway. Under this law
the cost of inspection is borne by general revenue taxes and is available to everyone in the meat
packing or processing business at no cost, except for overtime pay.
This nationwide inspection system covers slaughtering and processing activities (curing, sausage
manufacturing, etc.) at wholesale levels but does not cover retail stores, restaurants or
“custom only” slaughtering and processing activities. Products produced under state
inspection regulations, although equal to federal regulations, cannot be shipped across state lines
or sold to foreign countries; however, they may be sold to federally owned facilities (i.e.
military bases) located within the boundaries of the states. At the time of this writing (Feb.
1984) there are 25 meat establishments in Mississippi allowed to ship products in interstate or
foreign commerce, 87 that can sell products in Mississippi and 22 that can only custom slaughter
and process meat products.
Prior to 1968, poultry slaughtering and processing inspection activities were separate from red
meat inspection activities; however, when the Wholesome Poultry Product Act was passed in 1968 all
of the federal inspection (meat and poultry) activities were put together into one system. The 1968
Mississippi Meat Inspection act also provides for this same type of activity for plants doing
business only in the state.
MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIVERSITY
Mississippi State University first became involved in meats work in 1932 when Professor B. G.
Bedenbaugh taught the first course in “Farm Meats.” A second course, “Selection,
Evaluation and Use of Meats,” was inaugurated in 1936 and was taught primarily for the
students at Mississippi State College for Women at Columbus. The first course, Farm Meats, was
taught at various farm homes as the college had no facilities to slaughter or process meat. The
first meats facilities at Mississippi State University were constructed in 1937 by federal funds to
help accommodate the slaughtering of cattle coming from the drought stricken areas of the west.
That facility, known as the Abattoir (French work for slaughterhouse) was used for teaching meats
classes until 1963 when the new Dorris Ballew Animal Science Building was constructed. This new
building has the entire first floor devoted to the Meats Laboratory. Meats classes have been taught
by Professor Bedenbaugh, 1932-1956; W. R. Backus, 1958-1962; C. B. Shawver, 1963-1977; R. W.
Rogers, 1964 – present and T. G. Althen, 1978 – present. The new meats laboratory has
been managed by Mr. W. D. Thompson since its construction.
The list of meats courses now taught include; Meats Processing, Performance and Analysis of Meat
Animals, Meats Judging, Selection, Evaluation and Use of Meats, Meat Science, Food Composition and
Reactions, Special Problems, Thesis Research and Dissertation Research. The first graduate student
to receive a Master’s Degree in Meat Science from MSU was F. L. (Ferdie) Passbach, Jr. and
the first student to receive a Ph.D. degree in Meat Science from MSU was Dr. Roger P. Jones. Ferdie
is now associated with Passbach Meats, Inc. in Natchez and Roger is in charge of meats teaching
activities at Hinds Jr. College in Raymond.
An increased emphasis was placed on meats research at Mississippi State in 1964. In recent
years, the following types of research have been of foremost interest: predicting lean cut yields
of carcasses, live animal production factors as related to carcass characteristics, meat
tenderness, shelf-life extension, restructured meats, curing adjuncts, meat tumbling, growth and
development of fat and muscle tissue, meat flavor and extended meat products. Research work is
still being conducted and is mainly concerned with basic factors relating to further processing of
meat and basic animal growth and development studies.
In the spring of 1981, Mississippi State University, in cooperation with Bryan Foods Inc.,
became the training center for all U.S.D.A. Meat Graders in the U.S. The director of the Training
Center for MSU since its beginning has been R. W. Rogers. The director of training for U.S.D.A. was
Mr. Larry Meadows from 1981 to 1983, at which time Mr. Steve Cave assumed those duties for
Graduates of the MSU meats program have become successful teachers, U.S.D.A. meat graders,
U.S.D.A. meat inspectors, and industry employees. Some of these graduates are now or have been
employed with such firms as Bryan Foods Inc., Mid-South Packers, Pioneer Beef Co., Mosby Packing
Co., Passbach Meats Inc., Swift Independent Packing Co., Excel Inc., National Sales, Smokey Hollow
Foods, Modern Foods, Comer Packing Co., Vincent International, Hormel, and Peter Eckrich ∓ Sons.
One graduate, Dr. Ahmed Z. Daoud, in addition to owning a meat plant in Texas is a consultant to
the United Nations on food systems for some of the middle eastern countries.
During the mid to late 1940’s practically every community, of any size, had at least one
locker plant. This industry grew so rapidly and was so much in need of technical assistance that
the Mississippi Cooperative Extension Service employed a person to assist these many new companies
with technical problems related to slaughtering, processing, curing, smoking, packaging and storage
of meat and meat products. Mr. W. L. “Buddy” Richmond became the first Extension Meat
Specialist in America in 1944. He served in that position until 1956 when he became the state
extension specialist for swine production. Mississippi has not had an Extension Meats Specialist
since 1956 and is only one of very few states without such a position. Dr. Robert W. Rogers has
served in this capacity, unofficially, since 1964 although his duties at Mississippi State
University are designated as teaching and research.
Buddy Richmond served as the Secretary-Treasurer of the Mississippi Frozen Food Locker
Association from its beginning until his change of jobs at Mississippi State University. Mr. Grady
Sheffield, manager of the Hinds Junior College Cold Storage Plant, served in this capacity for
several years before Dr. Robert W. Rogers assumed that role in 1966.
HINDS JR. COLLEGE
Hinds Jr. College built a cold storage plant in 1946. This facility was converted to also include
custom slaughter facilities in the early 1950’s. Mr. Grady Sheffield managed this facility
for several years and was also the Secretary-Treasurer of the Mississippi Frozen Food Locker Assoc.
for several years. In 1970 Dr. Roger Jones was employed by Hinds Jr. College to initiate a teaching
program in meats, and they have recently opened a new vocational teaching facility for the training
of butchers for retail meat markets.
The history of the meat industry in Mississippi is of considerable interest. I know that I have
probably not covered all of the historical events that would be of interest to all readers of this
material. However, there is little written information available, and we all tend to forget exactly
when and how things happen. I do believe that the information presented in this material is factual
although no attempt was made to secure information on every plant in Mississippi. To cover the
details of the 134 plants in operation today plus all of the many others that have operated in the
past would have been a monumental task to be tackled only by a true historian.
The history of the meat industry cannot really be written to just include beef processors, as
most plants also slaughter and/or process pork as well as beef. Mississippi has never been known as
a major beef slaughtering area, except for cull cows and bulls. The reason for this is there has
never been a reliable supply of enough finished beef to support the slaughtering of finished beef
in a volume to be competitive with the packers of the Midwest or Southwest regions of the U.S.
I do wish to thank the following individuals for providing me with information to use in writing
this first written account of the history of the Mississippi meat industry. Without their help,
this would have been an impossible task.
|Mr. George W. Bryan
||Mr. Don Brantley
|Mrs. William E. Taylor
||Miss Hilva Jefcoat
|Mr. Todd Agnew
||Mr. Henry Leveck
|Mrs. Evelyn “Siddy” Spicer Agnew
||Mrs. Montieth P. McKee
|Mr. E. E. “Ernie” Hicks
||Mr. Herman Shirley
|Mr. Henry Lemmons
||Mr. W. L. “Buddy” Richmond
|Mr. Albert Lozes
||Mr. Joe Mosby, Jr.
|Dr. Sam Cox
||Mr. Howard Kelley
|Mr. James Triggs
||Mr. David Essary
|Dr. Roger P. Jones
||Mr. Bill Eaton
|Mr. F. L. Passbach, Sr.
||Mr. T. B. Laughlin
|Mr. C. F. “Pete” Vincent
||Mr. George Walsh
|Mr. Don Swanson
||Mr. Frankie Massey
|Mr. Don Williams
||Mr. Fred Blocker
|Mr. Bill Graves
||Dr. William E. Parrish
|Mr. Pat Barnes
||Mr. Bill Rofth
|Mr. Robert Brown
||Mr. Herman Long
|Mr. James Triggs
||Mr. Jimmy Comer
|Dr. Roy V. Scott
||Mr. Gordon Comer
|Mr. J. C. Bufkin
||Mr. Charlie Shotts
I am listing the written references that were used relative to the section on early historical
events. The Holy Bible, Meat for the Multitudes, The Science of Meat and Meat Products, Meats and
Meat Products, The Bryan Foods Story, The Development of Livestock Enterprises and Animal Husbandry
Extension Program in Mississippi 1875-1945, a Decade of Agricultural Development in Mississippi,
Extension Bulletin #19.
A special thanks is also extended to one of my colleagues, Dr. N. M. Cox, for her assistance in
reviewing and proofing this manuscript. Appreciation is also expressed to Mrs. Jeanne Whitehead and
Mrs. Margaret Hill for typing this manuscript.
This manuscript is dedicated in memory of my father, Mr. Enlow D. Rogers, and in honor of my
mother, Mrs. Maggie Young Rogers, of Russellville, Kentucky.