Koegel’s has been around since Woodrow Wilson was president of the United States. A time where you could enjoy a hotdog at a baseball game, but not a cold beer, liquor was illegal. 100 years later Koegel’s is still making hotdogs, and thriving. Desiree Jordan visits the company for our On the Map tour this week, on Michigan manufacturing.
Koegel’s is a meat manufacturing company that produces 45,000 pounds of product everyday.
“We do ring bologna, we do polish sausage, brockwurst, we have a summer sausage,
John Koegel is company President and grandson to the founder Albert Koegel.
we do some braunschweiger, we do slice lunch and meat, sliced bologna, olive loaf, a pickled loaf, macaroni and cheese loaf, so we have about 64 different items that can be in a store. And it’s all processed right here in this facility. ”
If you believe the old adage, you don’t want to see how the sausage is made, but for John Koegel it was a way of life. He said he’s worked at the family business since he was 12-years old.
“I have been head of our company since probably 1993. Idk I would have to look it’s been so long. We are celebrating our 100th anniversary this year, I’m third generation. Our official day is September 14th, that’s the official day my grandfather incorporated here in Flint.”
Even though Koegel’s is a small company over the years it has expanded, in part, by partnering with Meijer.
“We have about approximately 100 workers that’s including management and sales, sanitation, and crew. If they make it a year, and once all the benefits kick in they usually stay with us for quite some time. We are mainly just in Michigan. We service Michigan off of our own trucks, so we have 12 trucks on the road on a daily basis. We are in Ohio but on with Meijer, Indiana, Kentucky and that’s about it. ”
Serving four states doesn’t leave room for slack. The production line is fully up and running when most of us are just wiping the sleep from our eyes.
“We are up and running 100 percent by 6:30. Back in our kitchen we kind of stagger start because we have to start grinding and chopping so those people start at 5:15.”
Koegel’s has a logical layout to it’s production line.
“So the plant is a true east to west flow. So Bishop airport is right there and it’s just a straight line. So all the raw materials come in here at the east end of our building. Just make their way through the kitchen, cooking, cooling, packaging, shipping, right out the other end. So right on the west end, straight through.”
It all starts with purchasing…
“Our meat we buy everything fresh. We buy of course beef and pork, we check it here for weight, temperature, smell, look, and then we bring it in.”
While on the subject of buying cows, bulls, and pork jaws, Koegel told me the secret to making one of America’s most famous recipes, next to apple pie.
“Now the trick to making a good hot dog is to take the lean meat, so here we’ve taken the bull and the cow and blended it together. We’ve added salt, cure, and water. And we’re extracting the protein from this. So we take the fat and capsulate the fat in a nice protein bond, the people bite the nice texture through the protein, but then we all know the flavor is in the fat, so you get the nice release of flavor in the fat. And that the secret to making a hot dog.”
After the various products are made they are sent to the smokehouses to be cooked and cooled.
“Once we get the product smoked, the coloration like we like it, and the temperature where we want it, we then come down and put it into steam boxes. We steam the product, what it does because we just went through the cooking process we took a lot of moisture of the outside, so we’re pumping the moisture back in. And the steam tenderizes the natural casing, so it tenderizes it. This is the critical control point. So have to check every temperature, and next we start the cooling process.”
The hotdogs are then sent to packaging and shipped out. After the tour of the facility, I talked to Koegel about how it felt to take over the reins at the company. He said not a lot of companies have lasted as long as this one.
“It’s an honor to be guiding a company that has been around that long. To have a product that is still the same as it was a hundred years ago, we’re still making the exact same way my grandfather you know developed it, when he built the business and started the business. So to me not a lot of companies can do that. So I feel really fortunate they allowed to come in and take over.”
Koegel said he hopes the company continues to thrive for the next hundred years and remains in the family.
“I think we are just proud of the whole bundle that we’ve made 100 years, and still going strong, and maybe the chance to go another 25 to 30 or 100 years. Ultimately if I can pass it on to the fourth generation that would be success for me.”
Koegel said it will be interesting to see where his company will go in the coming years. Koegel’s opened its doors in 1916 and doesn’t plan on shutting them any time soon. With 100 employees making hotdogs for four states, Koegel’s has put Flint Michigan on the map.