Active Feed Company Inc.
Active Feed Company Inc. (Active Feed) has made great strides over the past 52 years. The Michigan-based family-owned and -operated poultry operation and feed supplier began humbly in the hands of the Maust family’s first generation. “My father, Joe Sr., was originally in the propane business until about the mid-1950s, when he sold out to get more involved in feed production,” recalls Joe Maust Jr., current president of Active Feed. “He incorporated Active Feed in April 1961 and began serving poultry producers. Early on, the company sold egg-laying systems.”
Growing with the Industry
Active Feed’s first facility housed a mere 6,000 hens; the company now owns more than 850,000 laying hens and produces about 300 tons of feed per day, which is more than 109,500 tons annually. “Originally, everything was done by hand, but now that the industry has grown and there is a demand for more and more production, we’ve shifted to more modern manufacturing practices,” says Joe Jr.
From its facility in Pigeon, Mich., Active Feed produces, packages and distributes eggs and animal feed. “We have one primary location where we manufacture feed for our own laying hens, but also for dairy and swine,” details Joe Jr. “As far as our eggs, they come in on belts to the egg-washing and -grading machine where they’re packaged and put into cases for shipment. We distribute a portion to local stores, while some travel as far as New York City.”
Joe Jr. adds that most of the feed Active Feed produces goes within a 50-miles radius of the operation. “We have a few customers that are quite a bit further, but the feed mainly travels within the state,” he says. “We manufacture and deliver more than half of all of the dairy feed for Cargill, an international food marketer.”
Active Feed also operates two subsidiary companies: Farm Crest Foods (Farm Crest) and Huron Gas LLC (Huron Gas). “Farm Crest encompasses the poultry side of the business, including egg packaging, sales and private labeling for grocery stores with over 850,000 hens,” notes Joe Jr. “Huron Gas markets propane to residential and commercial accounts.”
Joe Jr. reveals that Huron Gas was started by Joe Sr. and reestablished in 1991. “When we decided to get back into propane, which was originally my father’s idea, we brought the company back under the same regional name,” he explains.
A Family Tradition
Joe Jr. has worked to uphold his father’s vision since he was a young adult. “I started out when I was in high school,” he says. “I would gather eggs or put cages and equipment together; whatever I could do to help really.”
After high school, Joe Jr. gave college a try, but soon realized his place was in the family business. “I attended Goshem College in Indiana for business,” he recalls. “After about two years I thought, ‘Well, that was enough,’ and came back to Active Feed.” Joe Jr. has been continuing the family tradition ever since, and is proud to do so.
“Because we’re family-owned and -operated we have the ability to make decisions relatively quickly,” says Joe Jr. “We just focus on providing our customers with the highest quality product possible.”
Joe Jr. admits this strong, steady family backbone has helped pull Active Feed through challenging economic times. “The price of corn continues to increase,” he details. “It’s been up around $7, if it could drop to like $4 then we could increase revenue while producing the same volume, but we really have no control over the price.”
Between the increasing price of corn and many regulations in the food industry, Joe Jr. says recent years haven’t been completely smooth sailing. “There are a lot of regulations coming down; for example, the Safe Quality Food [SQF] organization was started by the retail food business,” he says. “The SQF performs a third-party audit, which involves lots of paperwork and operating procedures and certifications, but we’ve seen some side benefits from it.”
In an industry that’s always changing and growing, Joe Jr. notes that Active Feed has done its part to get the word out and bring the next generation into the agricultural world. “We partner with local organizations and we’ve gone to job fairs at high schools to promote what we do,” he reveals. “My son, Scott, and my daughter, Tiffany, are involved in the family business on a daily basis.”
Although Joe Jr. says Active Feed has no plans of geographical expansion, he admits the company needs to make room for a larger plant in order to grow locally. “At this point, we’re maximized in our egg production,” he says. “We need a bigger egg-grading machine to increase production, therefore a much larger plant, which we have the space for; it’s just a matter of time.”
Until then, Active Feed Company Inc. will continue to produce tons of feed and eggs daily, supplying local dairy farmers, grocery stores and wholesalers throughout the region with trusted family ownership.
For more information about Active Feed Company Inc., please visit: www.activefeedco.com.