Murray’s Chicken

With high-quality products and a focus on customer service, the third generation of this family owned poultry manufacturer is continuing its legacy. There was a shake-up in the poultry industry during 2008 as commodity prices soared and manufacturers tried to stay in the black. Some succeeded, some didn’t. Dean Koplik, VP of operations for Murray’s Chicken, doesn’t have a complicated formula to explain how the New York-based manufacturer and distributor survived.

“Our success comes back to our dedication to superior product and unsurpassed customer service,” said Koplik.

Murray’s Chicken, in its current form, was founded in 1993 but had been operating under Murray Bresky and his father before him for many years. The poultry farmers the company works with raise chickens and turkeys without the use of antibiotics, growth drugs, or hormones and are certified by Humane Farm Animal Care’s Certified Humane Raised and Handled program, which means the animals have ample room, access to fresh air and sunlight, and are raised in a low-stress environment.

The company’s chickens were the first to be certified by USDA as “lean” and to earn American Heart Association’s seal of approval. Koplik attributes the health benefits of the company’s products to the proprietary breed Murray’s uses and the all-grain diet they follow, as well as the humane and all-natural process by which they’re raised.

Most of the production process for Murray’s chicken products is done by hand: slaughtering, de-boning, and more. “We could buy machines that would save us the labor costs, but we’re convinced that our product is superior because of the time and energy our people put into making our products for our consumers,” Koplik said.

Last year, Murray’s took another step toward making its poultry processing operations more environmentally friendly by eliminating Styrofoam from all of its fresh chicken packaging and reducing the shipping materials it uses. The company developed a sealing process that uses just two pieces of film to encase the chickens: the bottom layer creates a snug sleeve to replace the Styrofoam and the film has a low oxygen transfer rate, eliminating the need for another master bag to protect the meat from bacteria in the air. The company also changed the size and shape of its cardboard boxes to fit more chickens in each box, more boxes per pallet, and more pallets per shipment, thus reducing the environmental impact of transporting Murray’s products to supermarkets or restaurants.

“We rely on educated customers who care about what they are feeding their families, how animals are treated, and how business, especially the farming business, impacts the environment,” Koplik said. “We can’t compete on price, so we offer a product that’s worth the money.”

Service, innovation, and trust

Murray’s also provides a high level of service. Koplik said the company works with retailers and food service customers. The company doesn’t operate out of inventory, but produces an order after receiving it and delivering it in a matter of days.

If a customer makes a request, the company will package and deliver its product in a special way. The company will also make deliveries on short notice, whenever necessary, if possible, and anytime a customer calls, the phone is answered.

“We partner with our customers and make our products work for them however we can. You aren’t going to get Don Tyson on the phone if you have a question about his product,” said Koplik, adding that a higher level of service is even more important in tough economic times.

It’s no surprise then that Murray’s products can be found in most high-end retail stores in New York and beyond. Koplik said Winn-Dixie stores signed on with the company last year and that the company’s business is roughly split between grocery stores and food service.

He said the company’s main marketing platform is its Web site, which launched in 2008. It includes an e-mail registration page for customers or suppliers to receive news updates from the company and a coupon page that Koplik said has proven especially popular. But the feature he may be most proud of is the farm verification page, which allows customers to enter the production date code on the chicken they bought and see the two or three farms that raised the chickens processed on that date. The customer can read about the farmer, see his or her family, and visit the farm via Google Earth.

“That feature came from our goal to bring the customer closer to our process because nothing is more personal than food,” said Koplik. “Our customers trust us, and we continue to give them good reason to.”

He added that Murray’s reputation for quality service is only matched by its reputation for innovation. The company already offers a limited selection of more processed foods like chicken and turkey sausages in a variety of flavors, chicken pot pie, and ground chicken burgers. Previously, it also manufactured chicken nuggets, but the company’s co-manufacturer closed down; Koplik and his team are working with another partner to re-launch that product this fall.

Processed foods provide higher profit margins for poultry manufacturers, and that will be a growth sector for Murray’s in the future, according to Koplik. The company’s most recent launch, ground turkey burgers, are very popular, and as much as possible, Koplik said Murray’s will offer gluten-free options. The development process is comparatively slow and deliberate for this poultry company becauseas Koplik said, he and his team will only launch a new product if it’s of the highest quality and is unique for the marketplace.

“In all our future endeavors, we will remember the high regard our customers have for the Murray’s brand and will be very selective of what products we put our logo on,” he said. “And the foundation of our business will remain the ready-to-cook chickens on which we’ve built our reputation and have brought us so much success.”