Greeley Daily Tribune from Greeley, Colorado on March 9, 1976 · Page 95
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Greeley Daily Tribune from Greeley, Colorado · Page 95

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Greeley, Colorado
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Tuesday, March 9, 1976
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Page 95
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Monfort sees cottfe os world food buffer Tues, M«r. 9.1976 UKKKI.KY (Ci.lo.l TKIHUNK U-23 Although less beef consumption likely, cattle have future By LYNN I1EINZE Tribune Staff Writer Although the people of this country will likely eat a little less meat in the future, the cattle feeding business is here to stay. "I think we'll see a 15 to 20 per cent decline in the annual consumption of beef by the American public," Ken Monforl said. "And there will be increasing demands on the grain supplies of this country to feed people. "But that doesn't mean we can't feed cattle. If we get to the point that we depend totally on grain supplies for food we could get ourselves into some real trouble. "As long as the grain crops around the world are good, there'd be no problems. But what happens when there is a drastic shortfall, or a worldwide crop failure? "Cattle act as a buffer, as long as those of us feeding cattle are efficient and make a wise use of our grain," Monfort, formerly president of Monfort of Colorado, Inc., recently said. He is still chairman of the board of the company which claims to be "the world's largest cattle feeding operation," and which was founded by his father Warren H. Monfort in 1930. "Dad was basically just a farmer with a couple of pens of cattle, maybe 300 to 400 head, when he started out more than 40 years ago.'He grew sugar beets and some other crops on the 80-acre farm which is now the site of our corporate offices north of Greeley. "There were a few others BICENTENNIAL SPECIAL NEW FROM ZENITH! 13 SUM-LINE PORTABLE TV fealuflngnevsrHO^ Chrpmacolor In-Line Picture Tube THE OCEANSIDE G3410C Exciting new slim-lino poilable Color TV. Ebony color cabinet with Silvet color on lop and pedestal base. Aulomatic Fine-tuning Control. VHP and UHF Antennas. '379 USES UP TO 44% LESS ENERGY! Zenith's lOOSb Solid-Stale Chassis featuring the Zenith Patented Power Sentry Voltage Regulating System uses up to 44°/ 0 less eneigy than previous Zenith 14" diagonal lube-liansislor sets » 100% Solid-Stale Titan 250V Chassis · Solid-State Super Video Range Tuning System · Patented Power Senlry Voltage Regulating System Synchronistic 70-Positlon UHF Channel Selector CHOOSE ZENiTH-YOUR BEST COLOR TV BUY! Tfa Jfi fb«*'Jg Quality Service · 810 10th St. feeding cattle at the time Dad got started. Their primary purpose in feeding the cattle wasn't to produce quality meat, but as a marketing toot. "In those days there was always a glut on the market every fall. Far too many cattle went to market and the prices were cheap. So Dad, and others who fed cattle around here, bought the cheap cattle and fed them the cheap grain and silage they grew. "Then when the cattle numbers dropped off and the market improved, they'd market their cattle," Monfort recalls. By about 1940, Monfort feedlots saw about 2,000 head of cattle annually. "During the late '30s, Dad shipped his cattle to the Chicago market and topped the market consistently for several years. "Probably one of the smartest things my Dad ever did was to figure out that these very high quality cattle wouldn't be the market of the future. He realized that to be successful feeding cattle you'd have to produce a slightly lower grade cattle that would appeal to the tastes and the pocket books of the general public," Monfort said. During the initial stages of World War II, Monfort fed cattle for a national food store chain. "The chain stores found that they could avoid the ceilings and restrictions im- posscd during those early years of the war by feeding their own cattle. "The ceilings and other government restrictions set down were totally out of touch with reality. Bui the ceiling programs-came to an end and we started feeding our own cattle again," Monfort said. - It was after the war that the expansion of the Monfort feeding business really got under way. 'i'he classic a i u i j goes that by 1952 we were up to 15,000 head and by 1954 we were up to 5,000 head of cattle on feed." That has been somewhat typical of the cattle market, according to Monfort, in the years since the company started growing in the mid-'40s. Good years, during which the business and the industry expanded and the bad years when the Monfort firm cut back on inventories and when some in the industry went out of business. It was during those bad years that Monfort said he learned an important lesson from his father. "The market just about got us a couple of times. And it impressed me that worrying a little about the market and being a little conservative about the-"numbers on feed and the amount of financing you have committed could make a difference in the future success of the company," Monfort said. But it was during some of the good years that the company began to integrate -- "mostly by accident." Those "accidents" resulted in a vertically integrated company with annual sales topping $300 million which now feeds more than 500,000 head of cattle in its own feedlots. It processes and portions the meat and then distributes the meat products nationally mid internationally. "We got into the trucking* business because a few em- ployes decided to buy a truck. We were shipping corn in from the Midwest for the feedlots and we decided it would be a good idea to buy a truck. Pretty soon we needed more trucks and finally it just got big enough that the company bought us out. "We got into packing because we had a hard time finding places to sell our cattle. We were working to get a packing plant in the Greeley area. Most of the big packers would go as far as Denver, but just wouldn't consider a piani in ore-city. "Some of the other feeders joined with us and we thought that we might get the plant. But there were some legal hassles and other problems, so most of them dropped out of the picture. "We finally got an agreement where we would finance the plant, and a Denver packer would operate it for us. We hadn't really wanted to own a packing plant, but we did. "Then the market went bad again and the Denver packer wanted out. We ended up buying his share and the packing plant was all ours. What that meant was that we not only owed money on the cattle but we also had that plant to pay off too," Monfort said. The distributing branch came partly by "accident" and partly by design, according to Monfort. "Again, a group of em- ployes thought it would be a good idea to sell Monfort meat locally. "We didn't move much meat in the local market, and it seemed like a good plan. One thing led to another and the company ended up buying that business too. We later added Mapelli Brothers because it was a going business with a good operation in Denver," Monfort said. The Mapelli portion plant was moved to Greeley and expanded to become the Monfort Portion Foods Division. But there were the moves to integration that were strickly planned -- no accidents involved. Monfort was one of the first packing company's in the country to break beef carcasses. Although the first operations weren't as involved as the present fabrication process, the plant shipped meal in pieces instead of the traditional full carcass. The products of the company's portion division and much of the distribution was aimed at the restaurant and institutional trade. "There are fpwpr ni«tomprs. hut nnrp tho reputation of a f i r m is established they arc even willing to pay a premium at times to gel a product they know and trust," Monfort said. The company built one of the largest packing house hamburger-making facilities in the nation last year as another "planned integration step." "We feel that it is far more efficient for us to produce a product like hamburgers than it is to ship our. trimmings somewhere else to have the same job done. "Ac I cop jhic cnTipany wt» wilj_j)robably try to keep doing about the same thing that we are now. We won't be growing as fast, but we will be concentrating our efforts on the development of better products. "And we will take the steps that make economic sense to our customers and to ourselves. Just because something looks good to us doesn't mean that it will make good economic sense to our customers. Unless something makes sense to both of us, we won't get involved," Monfort said. Over the years, Monfort feels the growth and success of the cattle feeding industry has had an effect on the agricultural economy and make-up of the county. "Farming has changed with the growth of the feeding business in the county. Crops supporting the industry became more viable and others became less practical. "The sugar industry continued to thrive because of its unique financing and because banks had confidence in the crop and the processing company. Many fanners gave up sugar beets in favor of corn because of higher growing costs and low sugar prices. But price increases recently brought many back to the beet crop. "With feeding, the banks and many of the local growers had to be shown that it was a stable industry. As confidence grew in feeding and feeders, growers also found corn eas.ier to grow and more economical t h a n alternates. "Farmers found that while most crops required continuous rotation in order to maintain yields, corn could be grown year after year with success. And (he prices they got for their grain and silage crops increased, making them even more desirable," Monfort said. As to the future, Monfort sees the cattle inventories of this country stabilizing and the cattle feeding industry continuing as a vital part of the agricultural economy. "Someday WR will have to see a slowdown in the growth ethic that had dominated business thinking for a half-century. And I Ihink we will see it in the cattle business. "We won't exceed our capacity to produce, but the people will have all of the meat they want to eat. It's always been that way - the people of this country have always eaten yll of the meat produced; ils never been thrown away or let spoil. "Cattle will act as the food supply buffer Ihat will stabilize agricultural output. That's not to say that some people won't be out of (he business by the time things get back to normal. "But I can foresee the day when the grain producer, the rancher, the feeder, the processors and distributors wilt all make some money at the same lime. And I don't think the day is that far away." Monfort said. ACQUIRED BY ACCIDENT, DEVELOPED WITH PUHPOSE -- "We got into the packing business by accident," Ken Monfort said of the packing plant north of Greeley. But since its acquisition, the company has developed to provide better service. It was one of the first to break carcasses, last year a hamburger facility and 5 million cubic feet freezing unit were added. Bring those "good old days" back to life! SUCH STUFF 356-7IM HIT 10th Street MONFORT SEES CONTINUING ROLE FOR CATTLE FEEDER -- Ken Monfort, chairman of the board of Monfort of Colorado, Inc., sees less beef consumption in the future, but maintains that cattle will continue to act as the buffer in world food supplies. "Those of us who feed cattle will have to do so efficiently. But I can see the time when the rancher, feeder, processor and distributors all make some money in this business," he said. (Tribune photo by Lynn Heinze) A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE GREAT WRITERS. ^ f -See America During The Bi-Centennial... 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