Many of their customers refer to them as the ‘Biggest Little Meat Plant in Southern Illinois’ and for many good reasons. We’re talking about Behrmann Meat & Processing, a family owned and operated business that has grown tremendously since the original enterprise was founded in 1968 by Dennis Behrmann and his father-in-law Vincent Tonnies in Albers, Ill. The company was founded under the name of Tonnies Meat Company.

The plant was built during its founding year with 1,000 square feet of space and operated as a custom exempt facility that served local livestock producers and sportsman who needed someone to slaughter and/or further process their animals.

Dennis and his wife Elaine took over the facility in 1978 and after several expansions came under USDA inspection in 2003. They sold the business to their son Cliff Behrmann on April Fool’s Day 2020.

No Joking around

Today the operation has enlarged to 25,000 square feet and tackles virtually anything you might expect of a plant that that moved into the wholesale meats trade but never lost its hometown swagger.

Cliff, who recently turned 58 and shoulders the title of president and owner, makes no bones about how long it took him to learn the ropes in meat processing:

“It was my whole life learning the operation and understanding how to manage it,” he said. “But the truth is it was and remains all centered around quality products, showmanship, warmth and friendliness.”

Behrmann Meat & Processing has grown to 65 employees and is still adding on to the facility.

“About 75% of our business is now wholesale,” Cliff explained. “We have nine delivery trucks and ship our product throughout Illinois, into Missouri, Indiana and Kentucky.

“We slaughter an average of 80 hogs a week for our store and another 35 weekly on a custom basis for those who raise and use their own animals. We also handle about 25 beef a week and we’re booked up about a year out for custom processing. It’s about six months for hogs.”

The Behrmann’s processing plant does a lot of different things. For example:

  • They process about 2,500 custom game animal orders a year, including deer and elk, which they take hide on, skinned, or boned out.
  • They prepare pigs for customers to pick up and barbecue themselves.
  • They enter cured meat competitions and have won hundreds of awards. More to the point, one entire wall in the retail area is covered with winning plaques, and there are more boxes of plaques from state, regional and national competitions that they’ve been hard pressed to find space to display them.
  • In terms of cured or smoked products they make themselves, the number is about 80 different items.
  • They do no private labeling but sell the finished products they make under their own name.

Behrmann Meat & Processing relies on its reputation for its advertising and promotion. They use their website and feature their own commercials and count on satisfied customers to spread the word about their products and services.

Connie Haselhorst, vice president of operations, said Facebook and other social media also provide an affordable way to communicate about meats they are featuring. Connie handles the HACCP programs, human resources, and so many other responsibilities that Cliff admits that he needs her as the second-in-command person virtually around the clock. She estimates that the plant, located about 30 miles east of St. Louis, attracts customers from about a 100-mile radius. Think about it; if you are in a town with a population of about 1,100 people, customers are coming 100 miles each way to buy your product.

Behrmann smaller 2.jpgCliff Behrmann, owner of Behrmann Meat & Processing  


Behrmann’s bounty

Some of the products on offer in the Behrmann 1,000-square-foot retail area include bacons, pork sausage and hot dogs that are among the most popular items in volume, Cliff said. But the variety in the selection truly is mind-boggling.

Pork is huge in the inventory, retail cases, service counter, and deli sections. Shoppers can find smoked pork steaks, ribs, pulled and barbecued pork, pulled beef, puggy wings, pork burgers and ham hocks. Then there are those harder to find specialties like Thuringer, blood sausage, liver sausage, cured pork chops, head cheese, salami (large and small diameter), German style brats and brat patties. A close estimate is that the retail area holds at least 40 styles of sausage, including a Philly cheese version.

In the bacon section dwell pepper flavored, slabs of Cajun, and Canadian style, even ground cured bacon and bacon ends, all made from the Behrmann in-house recipes. Name it and it’s likely there, from chorizo, to Italian, pork burgers, pepperoni and a few dozen styles of cheese.

The expected jerky and snack sticks are big sellers and are only upstaged by the Heat ‘N Eat section of meat goodies. Cliff noted that they do not have an eat-in seating section (probably out of fear customers would never leave).

As top-of-the-line as the retail store seems, he said that an enlargement of that area is in the planning, along with a new drying area for summer sausage. They recently added a 1,200-square-foot cooler area.

Cliff has served on the board of the Illinois Association of Meat Processors for eight years, including four years as the president. This year he was elected as a director for the American Association of Meat Processors.

“Finding time and good help keeps a small plant operator busy,” he said. “In today’s economy many people just do not want to work. We’ve hired some who never bothered to show up. That puts a lot of extra burden on everyone, including those who have to do the interviewing.”

He adds that he wants to keep the operation as efficient as possible but said that some equipment he wants to obtain can’t be delivered for as much as a year out.

For the future, Behrmann Meat & Processing looks like the family legacy will continue. Two nephews, Tyler, 37, and Brandon, 28, work at the plant and Cliff expressed his expectation that the nephews will one day take over the business.