OSI Group Today Rivals Size Of Union Stockyards Of Early Chicago

In the early years of the 20th Century, Chicago was known as the “Slaughterhouse Capital of the World.” Located in the city were the famous Union Stockyards. At its peak it employed 25,000 workers and produced 82 percent of the all the meat produced nationally.

Into this milieu entered an immigrant from Germany by the name of Otto Kolschowsky. He arrived in Chicago in 1907. In 1909 he set up a meat processing business, but his operation had an employee base of just one — himself. But the small operation soon took off as a family-run business and Otto thrived.

By 1928 his sons had joined him and the West Chicago business was now known as Otto & Sons. The Kolschowsky boys, Arthur and Harry, continued their father’s business and gained a reputation as a trusted local supplier of fresh-cut meats. They sold both retail and wholesale.

Otto & Sons persisted through the Great Depression, grew steadily through the 1930s and endured the tumultuous years of World War II, years in which meat was rationed. But by the mid-1950s, Otto & Sons were ready to make the next great leap. The family business was eager to grow and expand. One of the primary catalysts for making that happen was the historic handshake agreement Otto & Sons made with McDonald’s restaurants.

Supplying the new fast-food franchise helped Otto & Sons become OSI Group, a new identity which emerged in the 1970s along with major technological advancements and phenomenal levels of growth.

OSI Group today stands as one of the largest meat processing firms in the world. It commands an international reach that includes 70 facilities in 17 countries. OSI Group employs 20,000 people (almost as many as the Union Stockyards of early Chicago!) and declares annual revenues north of $6 billion.

OSI Group has also gained world renown for the exceptional level of excellence it has achieved in sustainable operations and environmental management. The company looks toward a goal of becoming a “zero carbon footprint” corporation in the near future. It also leads the way in waste reduction as well as conservation of basic resources, such as fresh water.

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