Juan Alfonso Ramos has fond memories of growing up on his family’s ranches in Chihuahua, Mexico and in southeastern New Mexico. The routine? Early-morning chores, school and then more chores.
“It never really felt like chores, we were just being on the ranch and doing what we loved,” Ramos recalls.
Now, Ramos, 33, wants to bring his family’s passion and legacy to Fort Worth. His company, Fort Worth Meat Packers, is just miles away from the Fort Worth Stockyards, which used to be known for its ranching and meatpacking history with Swift and Company in the early 1900s.
He’s running the last remaining independent, U.S. Department of Agriculture-certified meat packing plant in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Since starting the company in 2020, Ramos has grown Fort Worth Meat Packers from 30 to 250 employees.
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Ramos comes from a family that’s been in the ranching business for six generations. Juan Ramos Baeza, his father, brought the family’s ranching business from Chihuahua, Mexico to New Mexico in 1988.
Ramos is one of five children. His brothers help raise cattle in New Mexico and Oklahoma. Ramos’ family discussed the dream of taking cattle through the full cycle of raising cattle and bringing meat to the plate without antibiotics and hormones.
“I saw how hard we worked and how much love and detail and all the things that we did at the ranch to produce, what we believe, is some of the best cattle in the world,” Ramos said. “But we really felt that it was very unfortunate how we would produce our livestock and then eventually sell them live. And then they would go off to the next step in the production cycle. And we would never see the end product.”
His youngest brother, Alfonso, is now helping run the meatpacker, too.
“We get to take the animal that we raised on the ranch to the plate to the consumer side,” Alfonso Ramos said. “So that’s really exciting.”
Before starting the business, Ramos decided to become a lawyer. He wanted to understand the legal framework of starting and growing a company. Ramos worked at a boutique law firm in Dallas, Vela Wood, after graduating, where he learned the ins and outs of helping companies grow.
The Ramos family was originally going to open a packing plant in Roswell, New Mexico. When he found out a meatpacking plant, Frontier Meats, closed in Fort Worth, they jumped on the opportunity. They named the plant Fort Worth Meat Packers because they wanted to be a part of the community and continue the legacy of Western heritage and agriculture in the city.
“It was a blessing because a lot of the employees that were working at this facility, we were able to rehire the majority of them, if not all, that wanted to come back and work in the facility,” Ramos said.
Meatpacking isn’t an easy industry to get into. Business fluctuates and four companies control the majority of the meat market. Live cattle can become very expensive. And if the ultimate cost of producing the meat is higher than the saleable value, it can quickly put them in the negative, he said.
Part of his strategy is varying the types of meats they produce. The company processes lamb, bison, wild boar and beef.
Brad Painter, Ramos’ financial consultant and mentor, said he thought Ramos was crazy to buy the plant.
“(The building) was in a little bit of disrepair,” Painter said. “And Juan went in there and bought it, even when he didn’t have the money to do it. Then the pandemic came and so many things went right. And he managed it right.”
Painter attributes the success to great management.
“He’s a lawyer, number one,” he said. “He’s great at finance. He’s a rancher and he’s a good man with all these people here.”
Jorge Correa, the plant manager, started working in the meatpacking business at age 10. He says it’s in his blood – he grew up on a ranch and it’s also what his father did.
It takes dedication to make a meatpacking facility run. If both managers and employees are passionate about what they do, it makes the plant successful. And the owners do care, Correa said.
“They really care about their employees,” Correa said. “They care about what they do. It’s just a great atmosphere.”
Ramos hopes to eventually open a butcher shop restaurant that features their meats. Multiple grocery stores in the metroplex will soon have the business’s meats, too. He thinks that his great grandfather and grandfather would be proud of what he and his family are doing now.
“It’s also a matter of paying respect to those that came before us, at least in agriculture and ranching,” Ramos said. “The physical brand is something that perpetuates, and I want to make sure I honor all the previous work they did and that we do it justice.”
Juan Alfonso Ramos bio
Birthplace: El Paso, Texas
Moved to Fort Worth: January 2020
Family: Juan Ramos Baeza (father), Cristina Ramos (mother), Jesus Ramos (brother), Cristina Ramos (sister), Andres Alfonso Ramos (brother), Alfonso Ramos (brother)
Education: Bachelors in economics, political science, international studies and public policy – Southern Methodist University; Doctor of Law – agricultural law – oil and gas law – international business and commercial – Oklahoma City University School of Law
Work experience: Corporate Attorney at Vela Wood (2015 to 2019); Vice President of Ramos Land & Cattle Co (March 2007 to preset); CEO Fort Worth Meat Packers (2020 to present)
Volunteer experience: Dallas Entrepreneurship Center in Dallas when working as an attorney.
First job: The family ranch. First job outside of that was attorney at Vela Wood.
Advice for someone learning to be a leader: “I think the best thing that someone can do is definitely find a mentor. And that’s really someone that takes not weeks or months to learn from. It’s a multi-year relationship.”
Best advice ever received: “I go back to my dad’s core teaching, that if you love God above all else, and you don’t lie, most things are going to put themselves at play. So I try to live by that core teaching. And if you’d asked me a secondary lesson, again, I’d go to my dad and say that you got to do things fast and you got to do things well. You know, basically, that’s the definition of efficiency. So those are two big things that I try to lead my life on.”
Seth Bodine is a business and economic development reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com and follow on Twitter at @sbodine120.
This article has been updated.