This is the latest in a series of podcasts, web news reports and feature stories that are part of Family Business Focus, a partnership between MEAT+POULTRY and the North American Meat Institute (NAMI). MEAT+POULTRY and NAMI’s family business task force have joined forces to provide information and resources to help family-held companies survive and thrive.
In 1962, at the age of 44, Pete Caviness was ready to switch gears and try something new. After years of working as a cattle buyer for feeder cattle, stocker cattle and packer cows, he decided to move onto the other side of the business and go out on his own. He bought a meat locker plant in Hereford, Texas, and Caviness Beef Packers was born.
The business started harvesting 10 to 15 head per day and grew steadily from there. Today, the third-generation meat packer processes 2,000 head per day.
The next generation entered the family business in 1969, after Pete’s son, Terry Caviness, graduated from Texas Tech University with an industrial management degree and joined the company. At that time, the plant was harvesting 150 head a day.
“My grandfather needed all the help he could get, so my dad came back from college and got to work,” said Trevor Caviness, the third generation to work at Caviness Beef Packers and now president of the company.
Trevor studied finance and real estate finance at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Every summer during college he took jobs in different industries, trying to decide what suited him best.
“Entrepreneurship always interested me,” Trevor said. “I always spent a lot of time working at our plant, but I hadn’t made the commitment to work there for sure.”
After graduating from SMU in 1997, and then getting an additional one-year ranch management degree from Texas Christian University (TCU), Trevor decided in 1998, working at Caviness Beef Packers was the logical and inevitable next step.
“I knew I’d have a stake in my family’s business regardless, but instead of waiting, I decided to join right away and hit the ground running to try to grow it,” he said. “I didn’t want to waste three or four years out there doing something else and then eventually end up here. I decided to jump right in – it was the right thing to do. I have always loved it. It’s a way of life for me; a passion.”
Trevor’s younger brother Regan followed in his older brother’s footsteps coming on board in 2002 after also completing the one-year TCU ranch management program and started as a buyer for the plant. Today, he is vice president.
“He is more focused on the live side of the business, as well as offal and export business,” Trevor said. “I focus more on the processing, beef marketing and food safety side.”
At 74 years old, Terry Caviness is still very involved in the business as chief executive officer.
“He’s still fully active. He leads the live cattle procurement side of things and Hereford plant construction,” Trevor said. “There’s plenty for all to do.”
When Trevor joined the business in 1998, the company was harvesting 700 head per day. Seven years later, it was time to expand. Caviness built a new 350,000-square-foot facility, also in Hereford, and immediately started harvesting 950 head per day.
“Our old plant was sitting between the railroad and a highway and there wasn’t much room to grow,” Trevor said. “We moved a few miles down the road to more acreage and open land. Going new and state-of-the-art was the way to go and really helped take us to the next level.”
The growth continued. Three years later, production grew to 1,200 head, and three years after that, 1,600 head. Now at 2,000 head per day, there are plans to add a second slaughter shift in October to bring production to 2,800 to 3,000 head per day.
In the fall of 2014, the company started negotiating a joint venture operation with J.R. Simplot Co. in Idaho.
“After our visions were aligned and we hired the contractor, engineer and architect to design the facility, operations started running in June 2017,” Trevor said.
The 50/50 joint venture company – CS Beef Packers (which stands for Caviness Simplot Beef Packers) – has a 380,000-square-foot plant in Kuna, Idaho, which harvests 1,700 head per day. The plant features harvest, fabrication, rendering and hide production and it processes ground beef. In Texas, Caviness has a separate ground beef processing facility 45 miles away in Amarillo. Each ground beef operation produces 1 million lbs of ground beef per week.
The Caviness facility in Texas produces a line of Caviness Farm Fresh ground beef for retail, as well as private label and foodservice ground beef. CS Beef Packers also produces branded product for retail, plus private label.
However, the 1 million lbs per week only accounts for 25% of the raw material coming out of fabrication; the remaining 75% is sold as boneless trimmings to other companies for further processing.
“We oversee the operational part of CS Beef. We bring the beef packing expertise to the partnership,” Trevor said. “Geography played a big part in the partnership. You need to have a plant where the livestock is. Both Caviness and Simplot saw the need for a beef processor in that part of Idaho. The nearest competitor was 700 miles away. We felt like we filled a void by placing the plant in that location.”
The Idaho plant employs 750 people, mostly new hires with a few transfers from the Texas facility. There are 1,100 employees working at the Hereford and Amarillo plants in Texas. There are two beef fabrication shifts now and one harvest shift. After the addition of the second harvest shift in October, the company will bring on an additional 300 workers.
All in the family
Caviness Beef Packers does not have an outside board of directors. All operations are led by and decisions made by Terry, Trevor and Regan Caviness.
“We’re all owner-operators involved in day-to-day operations overseeing the business. I feel like it’s important to be present and be around. As an owner, being involved and having your footprint in and around the facility is essential. It gives employees a sense of pride to know those they are working for are also working with them,” Trevor said. “We have a number of other leadership roles – both in Hereford and in Kuna – that are held by non-family members. For many positions we have promoted from within. We’ve recruited from outside as well. We have several employees that are over 20, 30 and even a few over 40 years in tenure. We have a good foundation working with us.”
The next generation of the Caviness family is waiting in the wings to take the family business into the fourth generation.
“There is a generation after us that is welcome to join the family business, but we still have a way to go,” Trevor said.
The transition to the next generation will have to wait a few years as Trevor’s son and two daughters are only 14, 12 and 10 now, and Regan’s daughter and son are only 7 and 5 years old.
“There is still quite some time to find out what their passions are,” he said. “They may fit right into the business, or they may not want to. We’ll have to see where their strengths will lead them.”
As for the company itself, there are plans to build a new ground beef facility in a new location in Amarillo to replace the existing facility. The new plant should be completed and operational by Spring 2022. The new facility will allow for plenty of room for growth in ground beef production and value-added processing.
“We’re always open to opportunities for growth – we’re open to opportunities as they arise,” Trevor said. “Whether our growth is in further processing or just adding more volume at our existing plants, or even adding more plants – we’re open to whatever comes next. The world population continues to grow and the demand for beef as a key protein will as well.”
No matter where the business ends up in the future, Trevor hopes it will always bear the Caviness family name.
“There’s a lot of pride to family ownership and growing something that was started by generations before – and continuing to help it grow,” he said. “It’s fun to be actively involved and grow something that’s truly yours – that has your name on it.”