Family-owned meat producer expanding

A lot has changed since Winner’s Quality Meats started four generations ago in Darke County.

Factory farms grew, big grocery chains emerged and some families have traded a home cooked roast for the convenience of a drive-thru.

Yet the 91-year-old family business is still finding its niche producing quality meats, even kicking off a $500,000 expansion of its Osgood processing plant in northern Darke County so they can keep up with new customers.

Winner’s President Brian Winner said the company has been picking up more business from private label custom butchering customers, third-party retailers and restaurants.

“Our third party sales are really growing,” Winner said. “People are driving an hour and a half to bring their beef up here. They know we’re going to do a great job with it.”

Word of mouth at farmer’s markets and fairs has helped them keep expanding their reach.

“One customer, she just started a booth up in Columbus. So we’re going to get our meat up that way as well,” he said.

Besides meat processing, Winner’s has a trucking division and also raises livestock and farms 600 acres, with about 110 cattle and 4,000 hogs. The business has its own grocery store at 45 W. Main St., Osgood, where they sell Winner’s own meat and also sell at local grocery stores, gas stations and restaurants. He said they only use meat and seasonings in their homemade products, which helps them standout compared to other meats with fillers.

MORE: More than 1.5M Ohio acres remain unplanted in worst season on record

“The biggest advantage we have is that our meat is fresh every week. We slaughter three times a week,” Winner said. “So our grocery store uptown every week has fresh meat.”

The company now advertises through a Facebook page with 10,000 plus followers, has an Instagram and updated its website so people can order online, with the next generation of Winners leading the company into the digital age.

“They’re all the fourth generation so they’re all up on that stuff,” Winner said.

This has led to their signature marinated pork chops and other products finding their way as far west as Oregon and California, and have many repeat customers who live in Florida, Texas, Virginia, and Midwestern states.

There are now four members of the third generation and five members of the fourth generation working a the company, said Winner. Along with Brian Winner, that includes Terry, Alan, Ted, Will, Troy, Jesse, Rob, and Travis.

Sam Custer, Ohio State Extension educator in Darke County, said he’s watched the family operation over the years and said he’s seen the next generation helping the business grow with social media marketing and coming up with new products.

The family business also has the advantage of appealing to today’s consumers, who like the idea of buying from a local farm.

“It’s a locally grown product and locally processed and that resonates with today’s consumers,” Custer said.

While they’ve got a full staff of about 70 employees, building and maintaining workforce can be a challenge. It’s hard to compete for workers with a CDL, and even harder to find a trucker comfortable loading a 1,100-pound steer.

“It really has changed over the years because we used to have so many people growing up living on a farm,” Winner said.

MORE: Low milk prices putting dairy farms on the brink

He said it’s important that the family works beside the other employees and that different generations were able to teach the next one. He said their philosophy of hard-work extends from the harvest room floor, to the fields, the barns and to the corner office, with all employees expected to do their part regardless of their last name.

“You have to work long, hard and have dedication to the family business; that’s what it takes to succeed,” Winner said. “We work right beside our employees, whether it is cutting meat or scraping the floor, if that’s what needs to be done.”

About the Author