PASCOAG, R.I. – “Here in the sleepy corner of Rhode Island, is the most technologically advanced company in the world, period,” says Stefano Dukcevich, president of Daniele Inc. Stefano, along with his younger brother Davide, recently unveiled the family owned company’s newest processing operation and gave MEAT+POULTRY a first look inside.
From the outside, the expansive plant is enormous, spanning nearly 900,000 sq. ft., but, Davide points out, as much as 90 percent of that square footage is utilized for the time- and space-intensive aging and drying process required in the production of traditional prosciutto and salame.
“A lot of the space is taken up by product; product that is dry curing, product that is aging,” Davide says. “Prosciutto takes a year, 14 months or 16 months to produce so you have to have a massive, physical space.”
Within the new space, Daniele has consolidated its production of prosciutto hams, including curing and aging of about 600,000 hams and production of about 12,000 legs per week. It also serves as the production facility for Daniele’s array of dry-cured salames. The operations at the newly renovated facility depend largely on Italian-engineered automation technology and robotics that facilitate the time-dependent process of crafting the Old-World products using minimal labor.
“You won’t see any humans for acres,” Davide says. “You only hear the sound of the robots.” Most of the company’s 600 workers work on the finished product side of the operations, working two shifts, six days per week.
But the brothers are mindful that no level of automation or technology can replace the Old-World techniques required to produce the company’s products, which are available at almost every national supermarket chain and warehouse club stores, including Costco.
Davide compares the size and scope of the facility to the seasonally based wine-making process. “It’s like if you were to take a vineyard and encase it all under one roof,” he says. Walking through the many resting and drying rooms packed floor to ceiling with hams and salamis, Stefano echoes his brother’s vineyard comparison. “These are our grapevines,” he says.
The sons speak of their father, Vlado, with reverence. It was Vlado who moved his family from Italy to Rhode Island and founded the family’s meat business in 1976. His sons agree that it is thanks to pioneers like him that a growing number of artisan, dry-cured meat companies are entering the market each year in the US.
“They’re opening based on a market that’s already been created by guys like my father,” Davide says. “He’s kind of like the Christopher Columbus of charcuterie. This whole company is a reflection of him,” he adds. As the company’s chairman of the board, Vlado is no longer involved in the day-to-day operations at Daniele, but he is in constant contact with his sons and they value his input in keeping the company growing.
The family’s strategy has always included wisely investing early in cutting edge technology today to ensure business growth tomorrow. During that process, many opportunities to cut corners have been available, but the brothers were committed to maintaining their father’s high standards at all costs. “I think it pays to go all out, and we have,” Stefano says. “I think the results speak for themselves.”