This is the beef: The meat business thrives on relationships despite the pandemic — and looks to the future

Jamie Schweid, now a fourth-generation owner of a local ground meat business, thought he had a good teaching moment about 20 years ago, when he was fresh out of college and overseeing his father’s day-to-day business operation. … He would watch his father close a deal with another growing family business.

And it was a valuable learning opportunity.

But it turned out to be an even better business opportunity.

“This was when Five Guys only had about five stores, and the father of the company’s five brothers came to visit our site and talk to my father,” Schweid said. “They had a great conversation and made a handshake deal that – 20 years later – they still stand by.”

Chances are you’ve already tried Carlstadt-based Schweid & Sons’ ground beef patties if you’ve been a patron of the national burger chain today, as it’s one of the company’s main suppliers. It also has longstanding partnerships with Cheesecake Factory and Fuddruckers.

Jamie Swede.

Long before he was the secret ingredient behind these well-known food service businesses, he had the usual humble beginnings of a family business.

In the late 1800s, Schweid’s great-grandfather, Harry Schweid, started a butcher shop on New York’s Lower East Side after emigrating from Eastern Europe. Two generations later, Schweid’s father made a business out of selling burger patties to food industry distributors around New York. This business, originally branded as Burger Maker, became one of the first beef processors to use Cryovac technology to vacuum pack burgers for extended shelf life.

The Schweid family moved their business to New Jersey in 1994 as part of a modernization of their business.

Jamie Schweid, the company’s current CEO and president, took over the company with his brother when his father retired in 2013. He grew up in the Garden State and couldn’t imagine the company being located anywhere else. except in his home state today.

“Since the business moved to New Jersey, the local government has been incredibly supportive of our growth and development,” he said. “And it’s hard to put a price on that.”

That growth was nearly threatened by the pandemic, which shut down many of the company’s food service customers. The company also had to contend with shortages and supply chain issues echoing the Midwest meat industry.

Schweid & Sons Pork Sausage.

But the company’s retail business continued to cook during the pandemic shutdown. And she worked on diversifying her business, which led to the introduction of pork sausage breakfast, the company’s first beef-free product.

The company also had to contend with changing market preferences during and leading up to the pandemic. Market analysis firm Nielsen published a report in the fall of 2021 that meat alternatives jumped 60% over a two-year period as plant-based proteins began to be accepted by consumers as a healthier and more sustainable purchase.

“The way I look at it: There’s a market for everything,” Schweid said. “If you look at the plant-based products on the market right now, certainly more customers are using it as a protein, but the data shows that it doesn’t replace other protein consumption during the week.”

Schweid adds that the business is working with partners to create the first-ever USDA-certified program for climate-friendly beef, he said. The practices used in feeding and harvesting these beef products could account for a 10% drop in greenhouse gas emissions in the beef the company sells.

“We’re not going to stop there either,” he said. “This is just the bare minimum. We will continue to evaluate our supply chain to evolve and increase greenhouse gas emission reductions.

Schweid, a self-proclaimed “futurist,” went on to admit that lab-grown meat products could start to become a true market category. SCiFi Foods, which is working on bioengineered meat products, is one of the innovators it’s paying attention to.

“We’re definitely looking at cellular or cultured meat,” Schweid said. “I think there’s definitely an opportunity down the road to use this product so we can help grow beef in the country.”

In both the short and long term, Schweid’s goal remains the same: to keep the business relationships built throughout the company’s history working for both parties.

“What we understand about these partnerships is that we have to maintain a level of quality and service to our customers and engage with them to understand what their needs are and meet them,” he said.

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