Petit Jean Meats
Petit Jean Meats is a pork processor and retailer located in Morrilton (Conway County). Family owned since its origins in the late 1920s, the company is the only privately owned red-meat processor still operating in Arkansas. It is also an official sponsor of the Dallas Cowboys football team.
In 1922, Felix Schlosser left his native Germany to practice the butchering trade in Arkansas, where some of his relatives had already established themselves. After working at the Little Rock Packing Company and Becker Packing Company, he settled in Morrilton near his cousin, Mary Ruff. He opened a retail meat market with his partner, Ellis Bentley, who sold his share to Schlosser after two years. The small market burned but was reopened with the name Morrilton Meat Market and Sausage Factory in July 1928.
In the early 1930s, Mary Ruff’s sons Ed Ruff and Lonnie Ruff came to work for the company, which had begun using the Petit Jean brand name. The company had wholesale and retail businesses until 1943, when the plant was remodeled and the retail market closed.
During the Depression, Morrilton Packing had government contracts to slaughter cattle that the government had purchased in western states suffering from drought. In 1934 and 1935, the company processed 15,000 head of cattle for the government. During World War II, much of the company’s work was done by men who were too old for military service. In 1946, a grease fire that was ignited during the meat-smoking process completely destroyed the company’s facilities. Rebuilding took seven months, with the company reopening in November 1946.
In 1968, the company stopped slaughtering beef cattle and selling beef in order to focus on their pork products. After Schlosser’s death in 1968, Ed and Lonnie Ruff managed the company. Ed Ruff became CEO after Lonnie Ruff’s death in 1979. Another fire in 1979 required significant rebuilding of facilities. A new 48,000-square-foot manufacturing plant was completed in 1987, which was seventy-five percent larger than the previous plant. The expansion led to the addition of sliced and vacuum-packed lunch meat to the company’s products.
After Ed Ruff’s death in 1990, his son David Ruff became CEO and president of the company; David’s son Edward also works for the company. The company no longer slaughters hogs but instead purchases trimmed meat from major packers across the United States and then smokes and packages it. The smoking process takes place in climate-controlled smokehouses, in which the meat is smoked for eighteen hours with hickory wood instead of the more common liquid smoke. The company ships meat all over the country, although most of its customers live within a seventy-five-mile radius of Morrilton.
From 2011 to 2020, Petit Jean Meats was an official sponsor of the Dallas Cowboys football team, allowing it to market its ham and bacon in Texas as the “Official Ham and Bacon of the Dallas Cowboys.” Also, Petit Jean Grillers hot dogs are the official hot dogs of the Razorbacks of the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), as well as the University of Central Arkansas Bears, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Trojans, and the Arkansas State University Red Wolves. David Ruff passed away in January 2018, and his son, Ed, is now president of the company.
For additional information:
Petit Jean Meats. http://www.petitjeanmeats.com/ (accessed December 7, 2021).
Schnedler, Jack. “Family Business.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 29, 2021, pp. 1E, 6E. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2022/mar/29/family-business/ (accessed March 29, 2021).
CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas
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