Spartanburg Meat Processing Co. Inc

Made-to-order, custom-packed meat products for food service and retail
Written by: 
Ivy Carter
Produced by: 
Forrest Lancaster

In the heart of Spartanburg, South Carolina, is 15-year-old Spartanburg Meat Processing Co. Inc.; a USDA inspected and approved pork and chicken processing plant. The woman-owned company has made a name for itself in the meat processing industry through top-notch quality products, including famous fall-off-the-bone barbecue baby back ribs and spareribs.

By way of a high-quality product guarantee and esteemed reputation, Spartanburg Meat has grown to serve national food service vendors, such as U.S. Foods and Sysco, as well as retail grocery stores, such as Safeway, Hannaford and Save-a-lot.

“The No. 1 selling product is our baby back pork ribs and spareribs,” shares JoAnne LaBounty, president and CEO of Spartanburg Meat. “We pack 8 million pounds a year of these items and we’re in 9,000 U.S. grocery stores, but we also export to Canada, Japan, Columbia, Germany; a number of different countries.”

Spartanburg Meat’s fully USDA inspected and approved plant also performs co-packing and private-label packaging as a major player in retail grocery stores around the country, but in the beginning, the firm focused on food service.

“Myself and four other partners purchased our first facility in 1999,” recounts LaBounty. “At first, Spartanburg Meat supported mainly food service clients, but then 9/11 happened, followed by a tough economic situation and a number of the restaurant chains we cooked for went out of business.”

Spartanburg Meat Processing Co. Inc

Diving into retail

LaBounty was forced to make a tough decision; diversify or shut the doors of the 15,000-square-foot plant. “Following the economic crash after 9/11, three partners resigned their shares and I became the sole owner in February 2002 after buying out the remaining partner,” she says.

Spartanburg Meat officially became a certified woman-owned business in March 2003. “We’re one of the very few, woman-owned and –operated meat processing companies in the U.S.,” tells LaBounty. Since LaBounty assumed ownership, the company has been mentioned in Enterprising Women Magazine in addition to being recognized by other publications. LaBounty is also currently a student at Harvard University and has just completed her second year of a three-year owner/president management program. She will graduate in March, 2016.”

Under LaBounty’s direction, Spartanburg Meat began to transition into the retail-packing sphere. “Now we’re supporting food service, retail and private-label clients,” she says.

As the company has grown over the last 15 years, LaBounty has assembled a quality management and production team that includes many family members. Spartanburg Meat has outgrown its once 15,000-square-foot site and now the company occupies more than 75,000 square feet and soon to be more.

“In October 2014, we added our fifth packing line and we’re always in the process of updating our equipment,” tells LaBounty. “We’ve been in meetings about expanding into two other buildings behind our current plant in 2015. One building is 55,000 square feet and the other is 35,000; when all is said and done we hope to have 125,000 square feet of production space.”

But as Spartanburg Meat expands, sacrificing quality is not an option. “Safeway was our first retail-grocer customer and they remain one of our top customers,” explains LaBounty. “When you secure this customer, you have to make sure your quality is on point because you want them to have repeat business. Our customers having repeat business, in turn, means that they will maintain an account with us. As our reputation has grown, we’re able to call the next store and its reputation that carries a long way in forming a new customer.”

Custom co-packing and processing

A high-quality cut of pork, beef or chicken starts with selective procurement of the raw product. That’s why Spartanburg Meat’s management, production leaders and processing team, are committed to providing products that exceed all FSIS, USDA and SQF quality standards.  This same standard goes for Spartanburg Meat’s ready-to-eat products that are sealed for freshness with a shelf life of up to 150 days.

“Our ready-to-eat products, such as baby-back pork ribs, are fall-of-the-bone restaurant quality, cut and trimmed to customer specs, which saves end customers on time and preparation, all with the distinguished taste that sets Spartanburg Meat apart,” suggests LaBounty.

Smoked or steamed, spice rubbed, sauce or without sauce – when customers call in an order to Spartanburg Meat, they can have it prepared any number of ways. This includes customer’s choice cooking method – steamed, smoked or both - and the choice of sauce. Sweet Carolina or Honey Garlic and more sauce options; there’s surely one that sticks, but if not, Spartanburg Meat will craft a custom flavor profile. Products Spartanburg Meat packs for clients include: baby back pork ribs, St. Louis-style ribs, pork spareribs, riblets and pieces, pork loin roast, pork tenderloins and shredded pork and chicken.

This includes portioning into half racks or choosing full racks and all orders are produced when the order is placed to ensure the best and freshest quality. “All of our products, pork, beef and chicken are processed far in excess of the minimum USDA standards for fully cooked product,” says LaBounty. “All products are labeled to meet mandatory requirements so that individuals with special dietary or allergic needs can properly evaluate our products.”

In the ready-to-eat category, Spartanburg Meat delivers everything from vacuum-sealed packs to boxes and labels, building a custom order for any specialty design or packaging features. “We have an in-house lab and we’re always running product tests to ensure everything surpasses standards,” adds LaBounty.

Global gains

Spartanburg Meat has attracted a following outside of the U.S., as well. “As part of our 55-person staff, we have a complete export team, specializing in working with international buyers,” says LaBounty. “We assist these clients in creating bilingual retail and master carton labels and no matter what country; we partner to make production, shipping and distribution easier.”

From the Spartanburg Meat brand to a private label, the company creates packaging that suits the markets needs and is well equipped to supply orders to Canada, Columbia, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Japan and beyond.

“We support a step by step process for compliance with regulatory requirements, export approvals from the USDA and foreign governments and documentation as required for each country,” adds LaBounty.

Both in and out of the U.S., for 15 years, business has been a savory success. By focusing on top-quality meat products, superb service and competitive pricing, Spartanburg Meat Processing Co. Inc. has become one of the most trusted in food service and retail pork and chicken products.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
Ma'at Foods
OpSource
Praxair