Meat Packers veteran passes away
Roger Baker, one quarter of the ‘Baker Boys’ and a famous name in the UK meat and livestock industry, passed away on 21 September aged 73, after a long illness.
He is survived by wife Gillian, whom he married in 1965, and daughter Zoe.
Roger and the other Baker Boys – his brothers John, Graham and Edwin – established Midland Meat Packers and Butcher’s Pet Care.
He was born in Lutterworth, Warwickshire, on 15 November 1940, the night of the nearby Coventry Blitz. After his father died, he was the only son over 21 and therefore legally able to run a business, so he took over FW Baker Ltd Wholesale in 1963, assisted by family friend and co-executor of his father’s will Jim Harrison.
The business flourished and a new slaughterhouse opened in Rugby in 1966, with a new boning plant established at Crick in 1970, supplying companies like Birds Eye, Tyne Brand, Sainsbury’s and McDonald’s.
In 1971, the business changed its name to Midland Meat Packers, with Roger taking the role of procurement director. It outgrew its facilities and a new slaughterhouse was established in 1980 in Crick, making it the largest beef slaughtering plant in Europe. At its peak, it had a turnover of £150m, exported £1m in meat every week and employed more than 1,200 people. A new 2,500-acre estate at Ashby St Ledgers was added by the brothers in 1982.
However, in 1996 the BSE crisis was disastrous for Roger’s company, causing an 80% drop in business and significant redundancies. A lack of throughput eventually led to the closing of Midland Meat Packers in 2003, with Roger retiring.
He continued to work with livestock, though, farming around 1,000 cattle and regularly judging at shows, while he retained his passion for game shooting.
Roger was asked to record his memories and anecdotes of ‘market day’ for the archive at The British Museum.
A keen Leicester City fan, he smiled shortly before passing away on hearing that his beloved team had just beaten Manchester United 5-3.
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