As is the case each year when Meat&Poultry publishes its ranking of processing companies with operations in the North America, most of the firms listed are the same as the previous year. Slight position shifts are typical, based on sales as reported by the company or as estimated by in-house research of the company’s sales.

For the 2013 Top 100 ranking, some of the biggest shifts in positions are the result of the past year’s hurdles faced by the industry, including fallout from historic drought conditions in the US and unprecedented backlash over technology used to manufacture specific products. Some top companies, including No. 3-ranked Cargill Meat Solutions maintained positions in this year’s ranking while making strategic operational changes to adapt to rising feed costs, drought conditions and a shrinking national cattle herd.

In early 2013, Cargill announced it would shut down operations at its Plainview, Texas, beef plant where 2,000 jobs were eliminated due to supply shortages and rising feed costs. Likewise, in the wake of the Pink Slime debacle of 2012, Beef Products Inc., once a leading supplier of lean, finely textured beef, closed three processing plants in three states. The closures were the result of losing key retail and fast-food-based customers responding to public scrutiny over the technology used to manufacture its products. This development is reflected in BPI dropping from the No. 27 position in 2012 to No. 63 in 2013 with sales that slipped from $1.1 billion the previous year to approximately $400 million this year.

On a positive note, companies such as Branding Iron Holdings (parent of Huisken Meat Co., Holton Meat Inc. and Rochester Meat Co.) reported increased sales of $50 million to $340 million, moving up to No. 72 from No. 84 last year. Closer to the top of the list, Hormel Foods Corp. jumped up one position to No. 6 after reporting sales of $8.2 billion compared to $7.9 billion the previous year. The company also made news this past January after acquiring the Skippy Peanut Butter line in a deal valued at $700 million. Hormel wasn’t the only company in acquisition mode. Canada’s Olymel L.P., ranked No. 18 again this year, acquired Big Sky Farms in early 2013 after bidding $66.6 million for the country’s second-largest pork production company. Also in January, JBS USA, No. 2 on the list, announced it would acquire the XL Foods’ Lakeside beef processing plant, after it had taken over the management of the plant following a massive E. coli-related recall at the facility.

In other acquisition news, top-ranked Tyson Foods, Inc., acquired the assets of Don Julio Foods this past month, expanding its offerings to the growing Hispanic population.

A new plant is in the works for No. 20-ranked Sanderson Farms. The company, which reported sales of $2.39 billion for this year’s list, recently announced plans to build a poultry production and processing complex in and around Palestine, Texas, after scrapping plans to undertake a similar project in Nash County, NC.

Maintaining a position among the industry’s top companies through each year’s unforeseeable bumps and unavoidable market cycles is never a given and this year was no exception.

Meat&Poultry's annual Top 100

Editor’s Note: The arduous task of researching and collecting the facts and figures that go into M&P’s annual Top 100 is boldly spearheaded by Dana Holt, manager of directories with Sosland Publishing Co. along with Mindy Meyer, information services coordinator. Their attention to detail and tireless efforts are appreciated.