Alderfer’s Smokehouse Meats and Leidy’s Premium Meats are two midsized pork processors based in Southeastern Pennsylvania. The company has plants in Souderton, Harleysville, and Easton, Pa., with a distribution center in Allentown. Both are historic, traditional family-owned, meat processors that include multiple generations – Leidy’s operation dates back to 1893 and Alderfer’s to 1922.
Today, in fact, the two companies are really one – they merged about 10 years ago, and they are bigger in size than before the merger. But both longtime brands operate as separate entities and their products are still sold under the two banners. These products include hams; ring, “Schafer Style” and Lebanon Bologna; smoked sausages like Kielbasa, Andouille, and Chorizo; fresh sausage – and bacon, which is a mainstay of the company. At Leidy’s & Alderfer’s, the business strategy and the operation’s focus are tradition and history. And the rich heritage certainly applies to their bacon. But the merger did not end bacon design and production from both brands. Leidy’s and Alderfer’s both make bacon, each in their own way, with their own style and characteristics.
“The pork for our bacons comes from local family farms in the region, although some of the bellies also are sourced from Iowa,” said Jeff Bohmueller, product line manager for the brands. The pigs, part of the company’s Nature’s Tradition program, are 100% all-natural, with no artificial ingredients and minimally processed. No antibiotics or growth promoters are ever used. The animals are fed a vegetarian grain diet, with no animal byproducts. “Our farmers adhere to careful animal guidelines certified by the American Humane Association,” he said. Both Leidy’s and Alderfer’s produce 100% all-natural bacons.
While most of the pork Leidy’s and Alderfer’s use for its meats are from Pennsylvania, with a little from New York State, some of the bellies Leidy’s/Alderfer’s use for their bacon are an exception. “We do need to bring in bellies from other suppliers from outside the region, because of what we want for our various bacons,” said Chris Mulder, Leidy/Alderfer CEO.
“We’re looking for a certain size belly for our bacons. In the bacon industry in general, the bellies seem to be getting bigger and bigger. But that is not for us. For us, we want smaller bellies. We think smaller bellies make more consistent, high-quality products. It goes back to the farmer and the size of the animals and what we are looking for. A certain trim of the product, a lean-to-fat ratio, these are all factors that have to meet our specifications and our standards,” he said.
“There are also certain breeds of pigs that lend themselves to making bacon and other high-quality meats” Mulder explains.
“The smoking, depending on the brand, is a hardwood smoke, applewood – actually we make many different bacon products, for foodservice and retail, as well as our packaging and gift packaging. We do different types of bacon for other companies and brands – co-packing and private labeling. It is an important part of our business,” he says.
“One of the most critical aspects of doing that is finding out what our customers want, and then giving them what they are looking for. So, that means we talk a lot with our customers about what the product needs to be. What are they going to be using the bacon for? Where is the bacon going? Is it for restaurants or for retail?” Those factors are critical and make a big difference in what we do,” he said.
“Alderfer and Leidy bacons come in many different varieties. A major product from Alderfer’s is bulk bacon. Both brands include hickory-smoked bacon, which is the No. 1 seller. We also make pepper bacon, salt and low salt, maple, and molasses bacons, Cajun bacon, Canadian bacon, and we do turkey bacon, including a regular turkey bacon, reduced sodium variety and small batch, artisan crafted,” said Greg Lombardi, vice president of sales for the company. Alderfer’s/Leidy’s also offers uncured bacon with no added nitrites or nitrates, and bacon cured with celery powder and sea salt, he explained.
The company has been able to expand its bacon products greatly, thanks to the continuing love affair consumers have with bacon. “It is probably the most flexible meat or food product that exists today,” said Mulder. “Think about it – breakfast, lunch or dinner. There is no such thing as bad bacon at all, just many different types. And besides being the ultimate breakfast meat, you can customize it for sandwiches and salads. Bacon really comes in all shapes and sizes,” Mulder pointed out. “If you think about it, bacon is the ultimate comfort food – right up there with pizza.”