MORRILTON, Ark. (KTHV) -- Did you know Petit Jean Meats, best known for producing the finest of traditional Arkansas flavor, traces its history back to Europe? The company has more than 80 years of great success in the Natural State. And with it being Thanksgiving week, we thought it was only right to make it our next stop on our Made in Arkansas journey.
It's busy season at Petit Jeans Meats in Morrilton. Nearly 40 percent of their year round business happens during the last six weeks of 2012.
Katie Simpson has been taking orders for 32 years.
"All you have to do is warm it up then slice it," she tells a caller.
Simpson is head of the call center which is set up specifically to handle the large volume of orders coming in from across the country.
Their president and CEO, David Ruff is a third generation leader. Much of Petit Jean Meats successhe credits to their rich history.
"I didn't live it but I have first hand stories," Ruff explains.
The year was 1922. Times were hard in Germany and Fleix Schlosser was looking for a better life, so he immigrated to America to be with his extended family in Arkansas. Four years late, he capitalized on his butcher trade and opened a retail meat market in Morrilton.
Ruff says, "I have a good appreciation for what these guys went through in the 30's and 40's."
It was known then as Morrilton Packing Company. They survived The Great Depression, War World II and a plant fire. Through it all, the company continued to develop its smoked meat. For the most part, the recipe hasn't changed.
The fresh hams are purchased then injected with a seasoning and curing solution. It sits for at least 24 hours before going in the smokehouse.
Ruff says, "18 hours gives it a smoked flavoring for the product but not to the point that its becomes over powering. "
A vacuum bag consists of six layers of film helping eliminate the potential for freezer burn. The hams are then shipped frozen. They expect to send out about 100,000 of them this holiday.
Petit Jean Meats are in about 600 grocery stores across Arkansas.
The long term goal is to spread to surrounding states. So far, Ruff says there's been limited progress.
He explains, "You have to make a case that you're ham or your bacon that there is something unique and different about it than what's already at the store."
Meanwhil, Ruff hopes to one day pass the business off to his sons.
"We just have to continue to determine where the marketing is and what product people are buying," says Ruff.
Packaging , equipment, customer dynamic and their location have all changed, but it's the great taste that's remained the same, something Fleix Schlosser would likely be proud off. It's a family operation from Europe to Arkansas all created by one man's dream.
Schlosser passed away in 1968.
Petit Jean Meats is the only privately owned red meat processor in the state.
For pricing and ordering information, check out the Petit Jean Meats website. The deadline to order for Christmas is Dec. 17th.