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It’s a Great Time to Be a Fancy Pork Farmer

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July 26, 2018

Bloomberg

Since the trade disputes began, Niman Ranch and Applegate, industry leaders of higher welfare pork and subsidiaries of Perdue Farms Inc. and Hormel Foods Corp., respectively, have both reported an increase in interest from farmers that want to supply them. Signing up is not easy.

“Typically, not one farm that calls us is in full compliance,” says Matt Hackfort, senior director of raw supply at Applegate. “There’s a high percentage of fallout because of the drastic changes that are needed” to meet their husbandry standards.

“We’re blessed with a customer base that is either so food-centric that Niman is still in their acceptable range, or so values-based [they] go out of their way to get a product that lines up with their belief system,” says Jeff Tripician, general manager at Niman Ranch, which mostly sells domestically; a 12-oz. pack of Niman Ranch pork sausage sells for almost twice as much as a comparable product from Hillshire Farms Naturals. “Values-based [customers] go out of their way to get a product that lines up with their belief system.”

Niman’s Certified Humane pork products come from a network of farms required, for example, to provide their hogs with pasture or bedding that allows them “to play, forage, explore, root, and chew.” Unlike many hog farmers, these additional restrictions come with long-term contracts that aren’t based on the commodity market, providing short-term shelter from tariffs.

“Today, our farmers are sitting there, breathing a sigh of relief,” Tripician says.

Applegate’s Hackfort says the company is used to selling a higher-priced product, and consumers are used to buying it: “These tariffs, it’s another addition that’s going to increase the delta, but the delta is the delta because of the differentiation of how we produce animals, which is much bigger than the impact the tariffs are going to have.”