According to research and advisory firm Rabobank, American consumers eat as much as 193 pounds of beef, pork and/or chicken a year.
That translates to roughly 3.7 pounds a week. One might ask, where does all that meat come from? There’s a good chance that some of that meat comes from right here in the City of Pico Rivera.
The City is home to a few meat processing and packaging plants. Pico Rivera Magazine took a visit to one of them, Daniels Western Meat Packers Inc., a family owned and operated business.
Oddly enough, it didn’t start out as a meat packing business. The business actually started as a small convenience store in 1953 located in Santa Fe Springs. It was owned by Daniel Santos and his wife. The business would carry on selling a variety of grocery items until the Santos brothers came into the business. Both Al Santos and his brother worked at a grocery store in La Mirada. One day they asked their dad if they could sell only meat at the convenience store. They took the grocery component out of the convenience store, moved a few shelves, and started exclusively selling meat. Soon after, restaurants were buying meat and they became very successful, so in 1963 they moved to a bigger facility located on Telegraph Road in Pico Rivera. The meat they were selling needed to be inspected requiring a bigger space. Almost two decades later, Daniels Meat Packing encountered the same size issue. The operation was moved to its current location on Van Norman Street. With a larger facility, they were able to meet the greater demand.
Their packaging and delivery vehicles proudly states “Family Owned Business Since 1953.” It’s not a gimmick, it’s true right down to the very people who operate the machine shop. While Santos considers all of his 85 employees as family, the Santos family is still very much involved in the day-to-day operation. Al Santo's wife Barbara works three days a week in the office, and his daughters Lisa McGroarty and Jackie Aguayo, both work in sales. One of the daughters demonstrates love for her job with a personalized license plate on her car dedicated to the family business. Taking the helm of Daniels Western Meat Packers is Al Santos. He has been in charge of the operation since his father retired in 1990. At the age of 73, he has no plans on retiring or slowing down for that matter. “This isn’t work, this is my life, and I enjoy it!” proudly exclaims Santos. Aside from the Santos family, the plant itself has a few employees that are relatives as well, keeping with the familial aspect of the business.
According to Santos, the employees themselves are well taken care of. They offer competitive salaries and quarterly profit sharing to everyone. Among the 85 employees, the longest tenured employee has been with the company for about 36 years, with others reaching 25 years. He says that there are about a half dozen that have been there for two years or less. They like to promote from within. According to Santos, there is so much talent, all they have to do is find it. “If you can find that, you can bring it out, it can do you a lot of good” said Santos. The other advantage from promoting within is the fact that employees are already familiar with the operation of the business compared to someone else coming in from the outside. Santos had mentioned several times that his employees are his family. When an employee family member passes away, it might as well be one of his family members. It’s an important aspect to the regular operations for business.
Daniels Meat Packers is exactly just that, a meat packing facility. In the beginning, they brought in sides of beef and employees would break them into the different cuts and make ground beef. After a while, that process became unprofitable. Today, Daniels Western Meat Packers brings in all types of meats from different suppliers in boxes, trims them, cuts them and packages them. It’s all about the quality and the precise cut of meat they can provide. With strict quality control procedures in place, they cut their meat to provide the finest piece available based on the needs of their customers. The facility boasts two test kitchens for employees to literally burn the meat. According to Santos, if one was able to sully the piece of meat and it still tastes good, then they did their job. For that reason, they have been able to provide quality cuts to high end restaurants and businesses including the Roosevelt Hotel, Lazy Dog Café, Tommy’s Original Hamburgers, Mimi’s Café, and Claim Jumpers. They are also one of several suppliers of meats to the Disneyland Parks in Southern California. Daniels serves as a fill in for local supermarkets during times of popular meat ads. Sometimes a particular market will run a sale on meat and as a result of the ad, they run out. The Supermarket Chain then turns to Daniels who will be able to “fill in” and provide the necessary products to satisfy the ad. While a majority of the customers are California based, there are a couple of customers in Detroit and Chicago that rely on Daniels Meat Packers quality meats.
The secret may be in their highest quality expectations. From the cuts of meat, right down to the very floor the employees work on. The facility is cleaned daily with a crew of six starting at 6:00 in the evening and finishing at 3:00 in the morning. According to Al Santos, every part of the facility is cleaned, from the floor to the ceiling, to the walls and of course, all the machinery. When the workers come in to start the day, everything must be ready to go. If upon inspection a piece of machinery has the tiniest trace of meat product on it, the machine has to be taken apart and cleaned again. Prior to starting, according to Santos, 73 reports must be filled out before starting up for the day. But it doesn’t just stop there. Daniels Meat Packers implements a very strict sanitary policy, one that exceeds the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The machinery used is also maintained and cleaned beyond the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance schedules. All of this is done in the name of safety, cleanliness, and quality.
Next time you have that steak or even a hamburger, chances are it came from Daniels Western Meat Packers right here in Pico Rivera.