Jimmy Maxey was raised on a family ranch; actually, it was the second homestead. His father, Jim Maxey, Sr., started raising cattle on Bethel Island, a five-square-mile chunk of river island about an hour east of San Francisco. It was protected by inadequate levees, though, and flood waters breached them in 1950. Jim Maxey was forced to move his family to Fresno where he started another ranch while working for the Midwestern Meat Division of Cudahy.
“It was a small ranch, just 150 head of cattle, or less,” said Jimmy Maxey, “and in 1954,dad struck out on his own with a meat processing and wholesale business called King-O-Meat.”
Maxey was raised on that cattle ranch. His experiences there, and at the meat processing plant, shaped his life. He attended Fresno State University and studied agribusiness. An increasing work load drew him back to the ranch where he helped expand the beef packing and processing plant, and the ranch’s cow/calf and cattle feeding businesses.
With his partners Dennis Roth and Mike Pestorich, Maxey ran Beef Packers, Inc./Fresno Meat Co. until 2006 when they sold it to Cargill. Like most Cattlemen’s Beef Board members, he has always been active in industry organizations. He was president and chairman of the National Meat Association (NMA) in 2008. Last year, he helped navigate that organization’s transition from the long-term management of Rosemary Mucklow to new CEO Barry Carpenter when the NMA consolidated with the North American Meat Processors Association to become the North American Meat Association.
In recognition of that accomplishment, as well as his service to the industry, he was presented with the E. Floyd Forbes Award, the highest honor given by the NMA. He is a member of the California Cattlemen’s Association and the California Beef Council, too, an organization he chaired in 2008.
After selling Beef Packers, Inc., he remained active in cattle feeding and meat processing. Today he helps his sons, Steven and Rob, with Certified Meat Products, a “Center of the Plate” USDA processing company.
“My wife, Deana, and I have four children,” he told me. “My sons and two daughters; Jaime – she’s a teacher - and Cara - a dental hygienist. We have 6 grandchildren, too.”
In 2010, the California Cattlemen’s Association asked if they could nominate him to the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and he was appointed by USDA Secretary Vilsack in January of 2011. He serves as Secretary/Treasurer, a position he accepted after serving on the Operating Committee, Evaluation Committee and the Food Safety Committee.
“The food safety committee was something I enjoyed,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of hands-on experience and I thought I could contribute a lot to that group. I like the cattle business and the meat business, too,” he said, when I asked him why he was still so active in the industry. “Those businesses have been very good to me and I want to give back wherever I can.”
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Chuck Jolley, a veteran food industry journalist and columnist.