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September 13, 1991 - Image 47

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-09-13

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

BUSINESS

Bringing Home the Bacon

At 12, Henry Dorfman was a master meat cutter.
Today he is master CEO of a thriving meat empire.

Staff Writer

H

enry Dorfman's
success story really
isn't such a mystery.
"I'm 69 and I've been a
meat cutter for about 60
years," explains Mr. Dorf-
man, founder and chairman
of the board of Thorn Apple
Valley, an international
multi-million dollar pork
and meatpacking company
based in Southfield.
In his 42 years in America,
the Polish immigrant has
followed a philosophy hand-
ed down from his father,
Moshe, a meat dealer who
first taught him how to
slaughter cattle for kosher
when he was a young boy.

"If I don't earn, I
can't give. I love to
give charity."

Henry Dorfman

"I always said I must do
what I know best. And if I
work hard, I will succeed,"
Mr. Dorfman says. "I can
play with a knife the way a
musician plays with a fiddle.
As a child, all I ever saw was
cattle, meat and a manufac-
turing product. All I knew
was the meat business."
This year, the company he
incorporated in 1952 as
Frederick Packing is ex-
pected to surpass $825 mill-
ion in sales, up from $670
million in sales for 1990 — a
feat Mr. Dorfman attributes
to sticking to basic fun-
damentals. The company
went public in 1971.
"My father always said
give the best, and buy the
best," Mr. Dorfman says,
adding that this concept
helped the company survive
the turbulent 1970s when
consumers stopped buying
pork and meatpackers corn-
peted for a smaller industry
share.
Henry Dorfman's son,
Joel, who took over his
father's position as company
president six years ago,
says, "My father always
understood what was going
on in the industry. He
groomed it to a healthier
posture, and we were there

to reap the benefits."
Today the company is
massive with 3,000
employees working in five
plants in Michigan (1,800
employees in Michigan),
North Carolina and Utah.
As the meat industry con-
tracts, Thorn Apple Valley
continues to expand.
In 1969, Thorn Apple
Valley started diversifying
by increasing its product
line and buying other com-
panies, beginning with the
purchase of the Grand
Rapids-based Herrud and
Co. Most recently, the com-
pany bought Cavanaugh
Lakeview Farms Ltd., a
manufacturer of gourmet
meat and poultry products
sold through catalogs and
retail outlets.
Its 400 pork, poultry and
meat products are sold
throughout the United
States under private labels
and in grocery stores spor-
ting one of the company's
three premium names —
Thorn Apple Valley, Colo-
nial in New England and
Tri-Miller on the west coast.
The products are sold in
Japan, Mexico, Korea and
the Soviet Union.
Since January, Thorn Ap-
ple Valley has out-performed
most over-the-counter
stocks, skyrocketing from $9
to $40 a share.
With Joel Dorfman now at
the corporate helm, CEO
Henry Dorfman no longer
oversees the day-to-day deal-
ings of the Fortune 500 com-
pany he founded.
His visits to the Detroit
meat processing plant are
less frequent, yet he remains
an active chairman. When
he is in town at his Franklin
home, Henry Dorfman
makes regular trips to the
office, calling on certain
clients and still giving his
input on any major corporate
moves.
Unlike some industry
analysts, who are surprised
by the sudden rise of Thorn
Apple Valley stock, Mr.
Dorfman exudes a certain
confidence when discussing
the climb.
"We are not chemists. We
are still old-time manufac-
turers," Henry Dorfman
says. "We are good cooks.
We are always thinking

CEO Henry
Dorfman joins
workers on the
line at Thorn
Apple Valley.

Photos by Glenn Triest

KIMBERLY LIFTON

about the consumer to give
the consumer what he
wants. "
he company's history
began in 1951 at the
Eastern Market,
where Henry Dorfman
became the apprentice for a
meat supplier named Morris
Shendler after visiting
Detroit for the wedding of his
wife's first cousin, Larry
Wayne.
Mr. Dorfman, who had
immigrated to Topeka in
1949 with the assistance of
the organized Jewish com-
munity, had been working in
a government surplus
warehouse operated by a
Jewish family named Pozez,

T

CEO Henry Dorfman (left); President and COO Joel Dorfman (right)

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

47

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