Leaving New York City and arriving in Mount Olive is like traveling through time. No longer are the wide city streets or tall skyscrapers interrupting the landscape. There is only open countryside, a lake and a few mountains in the distance.
It is in this healthy air that Beretta built his company, where they make salami, prosciutto, coppe and mortadella. They say they chose this place, more than an hour’s drive from New York, because the climate is reminiscent of Italy. When they arrived in 2013, there was only a 14-acre meadow. Now, however, Alberto Beretta, CEO of Fratelli Beretta, proudly displays his creation.
In the company’s immaculate rooms is a riot of technology. There are machines that handle slices with extreme delicacy. They pack them carefully, without the need for human intervention. “We pay the utmost attention to this,” says President Simone Bocchini. “We avoid even the slightest contamination. These rooms are about 100 times cleaner than those in a hospital.” It is also a matter of convenience: the more protected the product, the longer the expiration date and the safer the consumer.
“I always try to raise the bar,” says Alberto Beretta as he explains the research behind this type of machinery. The best technology, normally used in other industries and other categories of companies, is made available and adapted to the delicatessen. The watchword is innovation, and this is demonstrated by the long corridors in the curing area traversed by robots that automatically transport kilos and kilos of salami.
“How long do these stay?”, I ask pointing to thousands of hanging salamis. These are what would later become the famous “Salamini Beretta,” the product with which the company made its fortune. “From ten days up to one year for prosciutto” replies the president, who then lists all the seasonings that go into the other products. Temperature and humidity are technologically controlled and regulated, and outside each room a small monitor graphically indicates the progress of conditions.
The odor in there is that of mold. “For us it’s normal for it to be there,” Beretta points out, “but here in the United States it’s not. Many delicatessens have very clean salamis hung up, sprayed with agent to prevent mold from growing.”
The goal, in fact, is to reproduce even at Mount Olive what is normally done in Italy. It is not easy, because the raw materials are different, but Beretta attempts that too. “We get our meat from the Midwest and Canada,” he says, “we work a lot with small producers. Here, however, the pigs are different, smaller than in Italy. So we asked the breeders to specially select the larger ones, so the legs for the hams look like the ones used in Italy.”
They travel three days before arriving at the factory, so they are left to season and then salted twice. The hams typically are cured for 12 months, that time spent in rooms where there are about thousand of them, moving from phase to phase from colder to warmer temperatures every week.
In these areas, there are employees in addition to the machinery. Very careful about health regulations, they say goodbye to Beretta and Bocchini and go back to work. “Do you see these high ceilings?” they say pointing with their fingers.
“They were not necessary for the machines, but we made them on purpose because that way the cold air that is needed for the meat doesn’t get directly on the necks of those who work here. It’s a choice to ensure their health, as is the use of technology that takes the hard work out of human labor. If we made people lift 6-pound salami by hand all day, after a year their bodies would be ruined.”
Leaving the immense production area and taking off the caps and protective footwear, we return to the “warm” part of the company, the part where Alberto and Simone have decided to build a training center where they will instruct their employees on a regular basis. “Both the new ones and those who have been here the longest, to whom we give the opportunity to make continuous updates and carry forward the Beretta model”.
Along with Alberto is his son Giuseppe, who after his studies at Fordham University is beginning to familiarize himself with the family business.
“What is good about this family,” says President Bocchini, “is the vision of the future. The times when Alberto has told me ‘you’ll see in a few years it will go my way,’ it has almost always gone that way. It is the quality of the entrepreneur and of those who dedicate their lives to the company.”
Discussion about this post