Obituary: Richard Cracknell
Many people in the meat industry Meat Management are saddened to report the death of one of the industry’s great characters and champions, Richard Cracknell.
Born in 1942, Cracknell’s career started at J Lyons in its Cadby Hall kitchens on a three-year apprencticeship. His career went skywards from there and when he finally retired in 2009 he had been at the helm as managing director at ABP UK, pulling the Group’s acquisitions together and integrating them into the business. These included City Meats, Tara, Euroscot, Meatpak, Lurgan Chilling and former Harris FMC sites.
Richard’s father was a school teacher who advised his son that if he failed his ‘A’ levels he would finish up working in an abattoir. This turned out to be prophetic – and to the benefit of the industry.
At J Lyons he started in a butcher’s shop and later became department manager for pastry. At that time Lyons was well ahead of the market, developing Frood. This used pioneering frozen food technology for complete meals, targeted initially at the airline business.
Cracknell then became production manager for meat products at a site in Fulham.
In 1969 Lyons merged its frozen food interests with Union International. Richard moved to Grimsby with the frozen meat business and stayed there until 1977.
At the tender age of 35 he felt in need of a challenge so he joined Harris FMC and ran its bacon factory at Stirling for five years before moving to its flagship abattoir in Perth.
In 1984 he was headhunted to Dalgety Meats as general manager at Blisworth in Northamptonshire, following another industry name, Mike Buswell. He joined in the April and in November the business was sold to acquisition wizard Larry Goodman.
Speaking about Goodman, when interviewed Richard said: “Larry has an incredible eye for detail and reducing costs. He is a great motivator of people and lets you get on and run things. I concentrated on integration and synergy.”
His production and technology experience stood him in good stead when in 1988 ABP pioneered traditional beef, matured on the bone for Sainsbury’s, working through farmer’s groups and using craft skills and maturation.
Eye of the storm
Cracknell was a former president and vice president of the Federation of Fresh Meat Wholesalers (now BMPA) and the first who was not the owner of his business. His involvement in that meant he was in the thick of the storms to hit the meat industry including the BSE crisis.
On 20th March 1996, a date none in the industry will forget, Stephen Dorrell gave a statement in the House of Commons about BSE and all beef exports stopped immediately.
That morning Cracknell had received a letter from John Major telling him that ABP was to receive the Queen’s Award for Export Achievement! Under Richard’s leadership, the business picked itself up. In his words: “Our successful and growing export business was finished for the duration. After some justified panic we picked ourselves up and got on with it and have developed all the earlier initiatives, which have helped to see the industry through its greatest ever crisis.”
In 1995 Richard became a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Butchers, serving as a member of the Court between 2009 and 2013. A great supporter of the Livery, Richard gave many speeches at Butchers’ Hall and wider Livery events.
Many who knew Richard were aware that although he always said he had little time for hobbies, holidays were sacrosanct to him and his wife Tricia. He loved travel with the USA and Carribean being firm favourites.
Richard Cracknell was a tough and determined character and proved his mettle time and again over many difficult years for the meat industry. It certainly owes him a debt of gratitude for fighting battles on its behalf with undiminished fortitude in the face of adversity.
He was a hero and mentor to many in the meat world and will be missed by many. He is survived by his wife and three children.
This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of Meat Management magazine.