Farm Food Facts

Insights on the Pork and Ag Industry During These Challenging Times from the 2019 Pig Farmer of the Year

April 13, 2020 USFRA Episode 72
Farm Food Facts
Insights on the Pork and Ag Industry During These Challenging Times from the 2019 Pig Farmer of the Year
Farm Food Facts
Insights on the Pork and Ag Industry During These Challenging Times from the 2019 Pig Farmer of the Year
Apr 13, 2020 Episode 72

Chris Hoffman, 2019 America’s Pig Farmer of the Year, talks about our strong food supply and the changes he’s seen in the pork and agriculture industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Show Notes Transcript

Chris Hoffman, 2019 America’s Pig Farmer of the Year, talks about our strong food supply and the changes he’s seen in the pork and agriculture industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Phil:   0:01
Farm Food Facts.  Where every farmer, every acre and every voice matter. Today we've got the 2019 America's Pig Farmer of the Year, Chris Hoffman with us. Chris owns, a 250 acre farm which raises pigs and broilers. He serves as VP of Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and a trustee for Penn State University. He was selected as to 2019 America's Pig Farmer of the Year, which represents farmers nationwide. Chris. Welcome to form Food fax.

Chris:   0:35
Well, thank you so much for the opportunity to be on your podcast today. This is an awesome experience for me. First time, actually.

Phil:   0:43
Well, that's great. So I'm gonna start with an easy question. What is America's pig farmer of the year have to do? What's the job besides being, you know, having becoming famous? What are the responsibilities that you've got?

Chris:   0:59
Well, being the name the pig farmer of the year. You walk into this thing not knowing exactly what you're what the expectations are but, we've really been able to kind of find an educational niche is kind of where I come from. If you go back into my history of as we were first generation farmer and, um, 45 years into our growing our farm. We had a lot of disconnect from our local community because I didn't realize that education was so important. So really, this is really giving me a platform to be able to educate and talked with consumers as well as retailers from, you know, when the pigs start to, how they get on to your table. So

Phil:   1:44
Well and I think education is certainly important, unfortunately, you know, you got blindsided by it by by starting the form and then all of a sudden all your neighbors and everybody else, but talk to me about education right now. What do you really communicating to everybody during this pandemic about having a reliable food supply, having sustainability efforts? What are the kind of questions that you're getting from them?

Chris:   2:12
Well, you know, consumers walk into a grocery store or walk in the Wal Mart and they see shells don't have any food on, and so instantly they're thinking, Hey, we're out of food like there's not a food out there. We've gotta grab as much as we can, and I'm kind of here to tell folks is a listen. There is plenty of food out there. You just have to understand that, you know, as this all has taken shape and we started going through some of the corn teams and things that are happening is people have ran out, grabbed a lot of stuff. So the algorithm that a lot of grocery stores order food on was blindsided because, you know, they were. There's food in the warehouse. It's just not to the store. And so we just have to get the shells fill back up because there is plenty of food we have. Farmers were working seven days a week where we're making that happen day in and day out, and and so the food supplies safe, it's secure. And, uh, farmers, they're doing their part along with the rest of our packers and suppliers and that food's available to be on the shelves. So, um, there's no food shortage, just keep reinforcing. The fact of it is, is that you know by what you need, Um, we got plenty of food, so we'll just keep keep stocking the show,

Phil:   3:39
And you don't have to hoard for six months

Chris:   3:42
No, no, you don't have to.

Phil:   3:46
So, Chris, I came across a statistic from Nielsen, which I found fascinating that I wanted to talk to you about last week. And I'm just talking about last week versus the same week a year ago, the number one meat product that had an increase off 622.1%. I mean, this is huge. This is bigger. Ah, yeah, I'm looking at my numbers. This is bigger than any other category was spiral hams. Now is that because there isn't gonna be a supply? Or is it just that all of a sudden, people are relying more on spiral hams for great tasting great protein?

Chris:   4:33
Well, I would like to say that it's that's the ladder is what the recent people are buying it. But, um, I think that it's really hard to look a like last week numbers compared to last year, because there's so many different things going on was in, uh, within last week from the epidemic that that's in our country. But, you know, you look at across the world. Pork is the number one prey team in most countries, and so the demand is there. And so, as you see, um, people going out and buying and thinking about, Hey, what do I need to have the last me for a couple weeks. So what is it that I need to have? And so they're they're purchasing Ah, lot more than what they normally would because of the what they would consider the unknown. And so to me, it's It's really it makes me feel good that people are behind our products. But it's kind of hard to know where consumers are right now because they're confused. They're scared, you know, there's a lot of things that are happening, and and I think that's where Farm, where we need to continue to just tell their story and say, Listen, we're here every day we're putting out food, the products, you know, we export a lot of what we produce anyhow, so there's plenty of food for the United States, and, um, we're gonna continue to just keep making that happen being in and day out.

Phil:   6:08
So I want to build on what you said about consumer confusion. I hear a lot of questions from consumers about what's going on on the form itself. We've seen headlines where we don't have enough farm labor. We see other headlines where they're moving to more automation. We see headlines where you know, farmers are now asking there their teams Ah, their crews to wear masks. What's going on? And what are you doing differently with this pandemic then you were doing six months ago?

Chris:   6:43
Well, we've,  we've kind of asked our employees and all our employees are either family or local neighbors helpers. We don't have anybody that traveled a long distance. So it's in our within our community way. Have not seen, uh, we only have one case of the Corona virus within Juniata County as of today. And so we're asking our bullies to to really do the social disclosing that everyone else is doing come to work, work best again together because it requires a team work effect. But yet just trying to be smart about how we go about it wear a lot of times were a mask for dust. Some of our employees I need to have a mass because there you know, the dust in the barn sometimes gets to him But, um, you know, washing her hands and we use a lot of disinfect on the farm anyhow, so we're constantly, you know, So we haven't really changed much there, but we've kind of asked our employees to really think about, uh, when they go home. Um, you know, if you don't need to go out, don't go out. We need you. During this time, we need yourself to work.

Chris:   0:00
It's important that where others are not able to go out and work because the business is air, not life sustaining. We have a life sustaining business, and so, uh, I think a little bit Maura, about you have to come to work. We need you here. You're part of this, this bigger picture. And so, um, really trying to protect yourself. And then we have a protective arm, and so we can continue to be able to put out the the pigs that they're more hand and other point products for people to be able to the joy during this time where things were just a little unsettled.

Phil:   8:41
So you mentioned before some of the challenges. What do you consider the number one challenge? Is it? You know, the truck's getting the pork to the supermarkets. Is that really what's holding up everything? Or there's some other challenges that farmers and retailers need to address.

Chris:   9:00
I think right now is a lot of This is a lot of what I call algorithms. I have a friend who has a hardware store, and so, as people buy products, it gets to a where there's only five hammers left. You know, when the 4th 1 has bought it orders nor more hammers right? And and so grocery stores are somewhat set the same way. So when you expect people come in, there's rush on food. All of a sudden, um, you know there's nothing on the shelf because it takes a lot of get that food from the wear outs. There's just distribution onto the shelves. People come by. I think the concern that I have from from the farm side of it is so we have our our processing plants are stockyards and those types of places we need to keep those facilities open and working. So you have a live animal that has to be processed and harvested to be able to get to the warehouses, and to me, that's where my concern is from a farm side is literally that need to make sure that we keep those in police working because, you know, from from Graham sitting this, if we can't get those harvested and processed out to get to a warehouse, that makes a little bit more difficult to get it on the shelf in the grocery store.

Phil:   10:30
Absolutely. Last week on form Food Facts, we talked to Dr Mark Jackwood, who's an expert in poultry, and he reinforced, and I'd like to not to put words in your mouth, but I'd like to hear from your voice. He reinforced that consumers do not have to worry that Covid-19 can be transferred from an animal to a human being. We're hearing a lot of questioning of that. What's going on in the pork world in order to communicate that to consumers?

Chris:   11:06
Well, you know, any time I'm asked, I tell folks that the Corona virus that humans have is not passed, passed through and and looked at research, and I've seen things that people have put out and, you know, right now it's until about scientific data. I know a lot of people don't like to talk about that. But you know, you're looking at what our president's talkingabout the research that they're doing in the data that they have been testing. And so they have actually found folks who have had the Corona virus and they tested their pets and they tested other animals. And they are negative, even when they're in a household of folks who are positive with the current virus. So I think we've been able to document that well enough to know that it doesn't pass from the animals humans to animals. So I think we're good there. And so we just have to keep talking about the things that we know and the things that are important in that you know, we're going to continue. We just wait, just sold our chickens because we raised poultry as well, and they just came in and they took 48,000 birds that process. And right now the poultry industry is just going wild because I'm hearing a $1,000,000 orders that would be in place so that they can get this check in back home shelves and then the people. So it's a great time to be in agriculture. I'm proud to be a farmer because we're actually making a difference right now and and trying to help people be sustainable during this.

Phil:   12:43
Well, Chris, you make a difference every day. Not only you, but every farmer and rancher the set there. So thanks so much for joining us today on farm food fax.

Chris:   12:53
Well, you're welcome. I appreciate the opportunity because this is how we get our message out. Always trying to take advantage of all the opportunities that we have. And I'm just proud to be the pig farmer of the year.

Phil:   13:05
Thanks for listening to today's podcast episode. For more information on all things food and agriculture, please visit us at us farmers and ranchers dot org's.  Also be sure to look for us on Facebook at US farmers and ranchers or on Twitter at USFRA until next time