Throughout its sixty-year history, the Jensen Meat Company brand has become synonymous with quality meat products throughout its operating territory. The company processes high-quality beef products in a variety of sizes, shapes, and fat-to-lean ratios for the retail, foodservice distribution, restaurant, and school markets. The company is now adapting to the evolving needs of its customers by incorporating more plant-based options into its line of products.
Jensen Meat experienced a steady growth rate over the years, but that has recently started to pick up speed. Of its five hundred employees, in fact, over one hundred have joined in the last two years.
At the outset of the pandemic, there was a fear of the unknown in regards to working conditions, and the company immediately took action and increased its safety measures significantly to protect its team and alleviate concerns about working in a plant. “Some employees were scared and did not want to be at work if they felt unsafe, so one of the big things we wanted to do is make our employees feel safe. We wanted them to know that we’re doing everything in our power to protect them,” said Vice President of Executive Accounts Patricia Lavigne. Jensen Meat added two nurses to the payroll; all employees were tested for COVID-19, and daily temperature checks were performed.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed the business landscape across every industry. Supply chains have been disrupted, regulations are changing, and the advice on best practices continues to shift as new data becomes available. In this new world, many businesses are struggling to survive, and only the strongest and most adaptable have been able to make the necessary changes to address these issues.
Jensen Meat Company has seen a thirty percent increase in retail demand and a significant decrease in foodservice sales. Another change in the market is that obtaining various materials has become difficult as the food industry works out the kinks brought on by new rules and lockdowns all over the country.
The regulatory changes happening within the food market have proven to be no challenge for the company as food safety has always been a priority. “We like to stay ahead of the new regulations, and go over and beyond the USDA on standards. That’s one thing where Jensen will consistently make sure we’re trying to be ahead of the game,” said Lavigne.
The company has exciting news for the industry of plant-based alternatives. It is currently breaking ground on its new plant-based division, and the doors will open in April of this year. The plant will have an initial capacity of over fifteen million pounds, and there are plans to make this facility accessible to other emerging plant-based food companies. Using a collaborative effort, Jensen Meat aims to help improve the production skills of other companies in this field and the plant-based industry as a whole.
“We have learned from working with plant-based that many companies have funding to develop products and the market, but when it comes to production, they are limited in funds to open a production facility. This is where our Jensen plant-based division comes into play. Giving support and capacity for these companies to fulfill their production needs,” explained Lavigne.
Jensen Meat also offers products that contain a smaller amount of meat combined with more plant-based alternatives. It recently released its Angus beef and mushroom patties to give people the opportunity to reduce their meat consumption without going completely vegetarian or vegan. The blended patties are sixty percent Angus beef and forty percent mushroom, giving them improved sustainability and cost without sacrificing taste people know.
“They’re the best of both worlds for flexitarians who want to get more veggies in their diet, but want to enjoy their favorite hamburger. They give you the savory, rich, mushroom Umami taste, are low in sodium, have less saturated fat, increased fiber, and allow people to eat healthier without requiring a lifestyle change,” said Lavigne.
The company is known for its commitment to sustainability, transparency, and innovation in the market. “Recycling is an obvious part of Jensen’s sustainability initiatives, but there are others that affect the company, such as employee engagement, supply chain practices, operational efficiency, resource consumption and waste, philanthropy, packaging, and facility design,” said Lavigne.
Recently, Jensen Meat added carports with solar paneling in its parking lot, and these are harvesting over fifty percent of the company’s electricity needs. Another one of its progressive actions is to add eight electric car charging stations to encourage employees to purchase electric vehicles.
In 2013, when the company moved to its new, state-of-the-art, 150,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in southern San Diego, it considered environmental consciousness every step of the way. This included all sourcing, design, and production decisions. For example, it selected low volatile organic compound paint for office walls to reduce indoor pollution, and it chose FLOR tiles to achieve a carbon footprint lower than that of importing products from overseas. FLOR tiles are made of recycled fibers and ninety-five percent of the product is manufactured in the U.S. The company’s vow of sustainability extends well beyond production and into every facet of its culture.
“Sustainability is essential in our industry, and it’s good business practice. We are proud to be leaders in our field, reducing costs while ensuring our customers get top-quality, beef products. We try to be strategic about how we do this, so that our company can do its part within the larger picture of our children’s future and the planet they’re going to inherit,” explained Lavigne.
Safety, sustainability, and innovation are the core principles derived from the leadership of the company’s Chief Executive Officer Abel Olivera. Olivera believes in a culture of personal accountability and encourages all of the company’s employees to be leaders themselves, giving them incentives to go above and beyond in all aspects of their work to create the most satisfactory customer experience. By making leaders out of his people, he has built a motivated workforce and this has led to the company’s success and ongoing expansion. Each department can operate freely and make informed decisions independently.
As the industry becomes more transparent with its processes, customers grow more curious about the specifics of production. Every day, despite the adage, people are becoming more and more interested in knowing exactly how the sausage is made.
“Consumers continue to care more and more about the provenance of their food and what happens to it at the processing plant, and we’re committed to transparency and ethics in this area,” said Lavigne.
Operating from one of the most modern plants west of the Mississippi, Jensen Meat will continue to be a leader in the field of meat production and is excited to delve into the new world of plant-based alternatives. The long-term goal is to expand into other countries and eventually help to solve the worldwide hunger and malnutrition problems with a healthier and more economical protein, whether meat-based or plant-based.