Bublitz, manager and CEO of Alma Meats Inc., gave an inside look at the company's new facilities as part of a tour touting innovative businesses adding value to Missouri agricultural products.
The University of Missouri Outreach and Extension and Agriculture Futures of America sponsored the tour as part of the Food Circles Networking Project.
The project seeks to increase consumption of locally-produced foods; improving market access, freshness and supporting local economies.
Alma Meats was the first stop made by the tour bus, which brought farmers, professors and other agriculturally-inclined visitors to five stops across west-central Missouri.
Each location highlighted ways the raw product yielded through crops and livestock can be turned into a consumer-ready product. Adding value to agricultural products, it is hoped, will boost farm prices and create new markets for goods.
For Alma Meats, this means smoking, curing, preserving and spicing of meats. The company, the oldest meat processing operation in the state, has started innovating since the decline of the meat locker business.
The enterprise had considered stepping up its slaughterhouse operations tremendously, but the profit dividends were far too small to keep them competitive. "No pun intended, that's a cut-throat business," Bublitz said.
Instead, the company is concentrating on providing high-quality goods for delis, restaurants and country clubs -- filling "mainstream niche markets." The focus is on freshness and quality, as well as offering novelty products such as a new arrowhead-shaped product in the works.
"We're constantly inventing and reinventing ourselves as we work to find our niche," Bublitz said.
Bublitz touted another benefit of Alma Meats' quality, local niche; it has protected the business from the mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) scare.
Consumers have a sense of security because the beef is locally produced, Bublitz said. This has actually improved business.
Other value-added producers toured included Jordon Foods in Knob Noster, which also touts "gourmet" products; Montserrat Winery in Knob Noster, boosting grape value through production of 2,000 gallons of wine each year; and Local Harvest in Kansas City, which provides and markets locally grown and organic goods.
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