You could say that Kelly Ediger was literally born into the meat processing industry. Ediger, who is president of Drake Meat Processors in Drake, Sask., says he’s been at the plant since he was two years old. His father Norman, who had no background in meat processing whatsoever, was hired in 1958 as a manager by what was then a co-operative called Drake Locker Plant Company. Norman ended up buying the company in 1960, and in 1980 after years of working in every department from sanitation to sausage production to sales, Ediger bought the company from his father and changed the name. Today the company includes an abattoir and produces more than 200 products under the Homestead Brand, available in major grocery chains in Western Canada. And his dad Norman? At 75 he still works part-time at Drake.
What do you love most about your job?
“Research and development. Coming up with an idea for a new product and seeing it through from the initial concept stage to consumer acceptance.”
What is your management philosophy?
“Equipping staff to excel in the areas that they enjoy, that they’re good at. Helping them become the best that they can be. We do that by sending them to training programs or giving them the freedom to try their new ideas. If they become a lot better than I am at a particular skill I applaud that and I don’t begrudge them of course. The other thing that I do is count on my supervisors’ advice and my frontline production people to improve company standards.”
What is the most challenging part of your job?
“Definitely one challenge is financing a business in rural Saskatchewan. And personally I don’t particularly enjoy keeping up with computer technology. It’s just not my cup of tea. I’m much more of a hands-on production person.”
What issues is your sector facing?
“One that’s fairly generic is finding enough help, especially since we’re in rural Saskatchewan, not a major city or centre. Another is maintaining consumer confidence in light of recent recalls. Our company has never had one, but when it happens to one company, it happens to all of us. We’d be putting our heads in the sand if I didn’t say that. I’m not pointing fingers by any means; it’s just an industry issue. It doesn’t matter who it is, it hurts consumer confidence in processed meats. Another would be the uncertainty with regards to exporting to the U.S. and the whole Country of Origin Labeling issue. It’s an unsettling issue we all face. And I don’t sell into the U.S. But speaking of industry issues that would definitely be one, both on the fresh meat side and then of course with processed meats there’s new regulations with that.”