In 1857 Benjamin Urner, a successful printer in New York City, was being regularly commissioned to prepare various price circulars for consigned agriculture goods by the many merchants who made their living buying and selling items as they flooded into the city from around the world.
In 1858, Mr. Urner noted discrepancies in the circulars that he was printing and realized how difficult it must be for shippers to assimilate market appraisals which were often in variance with each other. This led him to the idea of publishing a single, objective market report and so, to the creation of the Producers’ Price-Current—later to be universally known as the Urner Barry’s Price-Current.
In the early days of market reporting, it was possible for Mr. Urner to regularly visit primary markets located between Fourteenth and Canal Streets in New York City. While there, daily personal interviews could be conducted with merchants who would provide insight into what prices were actually being quoted for products ranging from Michigan Mercers potatoes to crude turpentine.
When Urner’s son, Frank, joined the team in 1876 followed by William C. Taber in 1882, the Producers’ Price-Current had already established itself as a professional success offering an objective, four-page weekly report on market conditions and quotes in an affordable fashion with a price of $1.00 for 52-weeks’ worth of Price-Currents.
In 1882, the trio formed the Urner Publishing Company and began publishing the Producers’ Price-Current as a daily circular. By this time the Price Current’s success was acknowledged throughout the industry and was recognized as the best source on New York Market prices and conditions. In 1888 Benjamin Urner served as president of the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Meanwhile, in 1873, L. Frank Barry started the New York Daily Market Report, covering all produce markets and actually became the first such daily publication in the country.
For several years, Urner Publishing Company and L. Frank Barry and Sons successfully coexisted as separate publishing firms. However, keeping up with the demand for service in a rapidly-expanding nation became increasingly more challenging. Recognizing areas of mutual interest, the two publishers merged in 1895 to form the Urner-Barry Company, located on 173-175 Chamber Street in New York City.
The Urner-Barry Company would continue to provide daily market updates under the ownership of the Urner, Barry and Taber families until the mid 1960’s when the company started a new chapter in its already influential history.
1966 proved to be the year when the Urner Barry Company would establish the foundations it would need to continue its success in a world that was rapidly developing both technologically and financially.
Renamed Urner Barry Publications Inc, the company moved from its Chamber Street offices it had occupied for decades to a new home in Jersey City, NJ. In addition to a new location, Urner Barry partnered with Paul B. Brown Sr., Michael E. (Bud) O’Shaughnessy and John M. Carter as principals within the company.
Brown Sr., O’Shaughnessy and Carter brought with them decades’ worth of experience in the poultry and agriculture industries. Before signing on with Urner Barry, Paul Brown Sr., a Maryland native, worked for the states’ Department of Agriculture, and later with the USDA’s Market News Service with assignments in all major US cities. Maine native John Carter served as a Dairy and Poultry Market News Service reporter for the USDA before becoming a principal at Urner Barry. Bud O’Shaughnessy, meanwhile, was a poultry distribution manager for Swift & Co. in his native New York. Together, the three men brought a vast pool of industry contacts from around the country that would open Urner Barry quotations to a large, relatively untapped market.
The retirement of Frank E. Urner in 1974 marked the last time a descendant of founding father Benjamin Urner would be employed at the company his family helped build. Though retired, Frank Urner would live to see Urner Barry flourish for another 33 years well into the 21st century until his death on March 22, 2007.
Shortly after Frank Urner’s retirement, in 1976, Urner Barry headquarters was moved to Bayville, New Jersey in the heart of the scenic shore area of Ocean County. During this period, Paul and Bud were joined as partners by their sons Paul Brown, Jr., Rick Brown, and Michael W. O’Shaughnessy, while John M. Carter would retire in 1986. It was under the guidance of this ownership that Urner Barry’s next historical milestone was realized.
From the mid-1970’s and onward, Urner Barry would begin to implement a slew of new publications and services covering various new markets using the latest in print and non-print media. In 1975 Urner Barry broke into the seafood market reporting world with the debut of the Seafood Price Current. In 1976, Urner Barry would host the very first Executive Conference in New Jersey, an event that would grow to become the most widely attended and recognized marketing event in the poultry and egg industries. In 1992, the Brown and O’Shaughnessy families saw an opportunity to utilize Urner Barry’s expertise to expand its market reporting base. National Provisioner’s Yellow Sheet was acquired in October of that year, broadening Urner Barry’s reporting realm into the beef, pork, lamb, veal, and inedible markets.
In 1997, Paul B. Brown Sr. elected to retire, ending a 40 year career quoting the turkey market. Bud O’Shaughnessy would retire from chicken market reporting in 1998, leaving principals Paul B. Brown Jr., President; Richard A. Brown, Executive Vice President; and Senior Vice President; Michael W. O’Shaughnessy, Secretary left to run the company.
Building on its leadership position in the field and the assembly of an expert management team Urner Barry has continued to expand its services. The creation of Comtell® Instant Market News in 1982 signaled the beginning of a significant paradigm shift in how the company would deliver, receive and view media content. In 1999, Urner Barry would partner with Seafood.com and Seafood.com News to deliver the most accurate, daily and pertinent seafood news to the industry.
Urner Barry has embraced 21st century technology with the creation of Comtell® On-Line, the most accessible, accurate and timely source for news, quotes and research in the meat, poultry, egg, pork, veal and seafood industries. Additionally, in 2000, Urner Barry partnered with Cattle-Fax in a new Global Connection initiative, forming Obsono LLC to produce the bi-weekly publication Market Insight offering, analysis and forecasts for the poultry and red meat industries.
While Urner Barry has remained focused on the future of its business, charging forward with online innovations, the company has remained faithful to its roots and stills offers a complete line of print media including books like the NAMI Meat Buyers Guide and the Commercial Guide to Fish and Shellfish. Urner Barry also provides its customers with newsletters, directories, and wall charts highlighting other aspects of the poultry, egg, seafood, and red meat industries. In 2006, the company launched Urner Barry’s Reporter, a quarterly food service magazine offering the most interesting news and market insight across the food service industry.
In May of 2015, Urner Barry broke ground in Toms River, New Jersey for a brand-new building designed to make room for the needs of the growing company. The much-larger all-new facility was completed and opened in 2016 where Urner Barry continues to adapt its services and products to fit in an ever-expanding and highly complex global food industry. With a strong history and promising future Urner Barry looks forward to another 150-plus years of investigating and reporting the protein markets.