With every feature MEAT+POULTRY editors write in a given month, there are almost always some editorial nuggets or unexpected details sources provided that are often as intriguing as the topic of the story itself.
Unfortunately, most of these details and side stories are too often left on the cutting room floor due to predetermined word counts and space limitations for each editorial component.
A perfect example of this occurred when I was interviewing the main source for the March cover story (“In the Green”). The focus of the story was on corned beef production from the perspective of an established processor – Boyle’s Famous Corned Beef Co., which is based in Kansas City, Mo. During the course of my discussion with the company’s current president, Gregg Ouverson, he reverently referenced the company’s founder, Bob Boyle, numerous times. Bob Boyle died in 1993, but his legacy of producing quality meat is alive and well today and the company that was his life’s work is thriving.
Only after Ouverson sent me a yellowing copy of a story published in the Kansas City Star, that accompanied Boyle’s obituary did I grasp and appreciate the history of the company. Unfortunately, the back story of the founder and the role he played in growing the business while giving back to his community were left out of this month’s feature. But that doesn’t diminish its relevance to the business today.
As a young boy, Boyle worked for 10¢ an hour at a packing plant before launching Boyle Meat at the age of 18, according to the Star story. During World War II he served in the Mediterranean Sea area as chief subsistence officer, receiving a battlefield commission from General Dwight D. Eisenhower. After the war, he set his sights on growing his company.
As the principal stockholder of Boyle’s Famous Corned Beef Co., he also led what was then known as Boyle Meat Co., which supplied meat to hotels, restaurants and institutions. In the ‘70s he successfully negotiated trade agreements with partners in Japan to ship his products overseas. His enterprises thrived, employing as many as 180 workers with annual revenues of around $20 million.
He was loyal to his customers in the Kansas City area and even dined daily at Jennie’s, an Italian restaurant in KC that featured Boyle’s products on the menu. He was also known for his loyalty to his community, including the support of scholarship programs at Kansas City-based Avila College and working to promote and grow agriculture-focused education. Boyle’s also sponsored little league baseball teams in the area.
“He was a perfect Irish gentleman,” said Tom Barelli, owner of Jennie’s of the friendship he and many others in the community developed with Boyle. “Many times he saved me,” Barelli told the Star.
“Mr. Boyle was a gentleman who at all times was mindful of other people,” said Sister Olive Louise Dallavis, president emeritus of Avila, “particularly young people who need a good foundation in life.”
After his death, Viola, Bob Boyle’s wife of 54 years, took over the business and led it for about four years until it was purchased by Ouverson and his longtime business partner, Don Wendl, in 1997.
For the kids who played little league baseball wearing a Boyle’s jersey years ago and the students of Avila who benefited from the scholarships he supported and the hundreds of employees of Boyle’s through the years, the legacy of Bob Boyle deserves more than a mention. These details deserve being saved from the cutting room floor.