A HISTORY OF THE MEAT PACKING AND PROCESSING INDUSTRY IN MISSISSIPPI
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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

 

 

  1984

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

INTRODUCTION

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.

EARLY INDUSTRY

(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 Caesars.

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 atmospheric temperature.

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 building.

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 Inspection.

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 canned bologna.

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 company.

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 Co.).

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.

MEAT INSPECTION

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 U.S.D.A.

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.

SUMMARY STATEMENT

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.

[from http://www.msstate.edu/dept/ads/Faculty/history.html]

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