Pork has received more attention in recent years for its role as an alternative source to the ‘other’ white meat as well as its great flavor. In today’s market, tasty pork products remain the passion of Farmer John, one of the west’s leading providers of quality meats. Lorie Greenspan tells the story.
Charles Dickens wrote in Great Expectations, “If you want a subject, look to pork!” The pointed remark uttered by Uncle Pumblechook was in response to complaints over dinner on an ill-chosen subject for a church sermon.
In the world of Farmer John, pork is always a subject on the company’s plate. Founded by two brothers in 1931, Farmer John has grown into a sizeable business offering a strong brand that has helped establish a range of meat products in the marketplace. The brothers, Francis and Bernard Clougherty, began their business working side-by-side with only a few employees. Today, over 1,500 people work for the company and the California tradition of high quality pork products has grown to become a global brand with sales in several countries. An array of grandchildren, nieces and nephews still work for the company and carry on the heritage that is 77 years old.
And with pork taking its place as a wonderful alternative to chicken and beef, Farmer John remains a preferred supplier. According to the National Pork Board Web site, a study released in 2006 by the USDA reveals six common cuts of fresh pork are leaner today than they were 15 years ago – on average about 16 percent lower in total fat and 27 percent lower in saturated fat. In addition, the text states: “Pork tenderloin is now as lean as skinless chicken breast.” The study, the NPB explains, “found that a 3-ounce serving of pork tenderloin contains only 2.98 grams of fat, whereas a 3-ounce serving of skinless chicken breast contains 3.03 grams of fat.”
MANY HOME RUNS
That seems to be a lot to cheer about – and cheering they do, at Dodger Stadium, which is celebrating the 50th anniversary in 2008 of the Dodger Dog, named for the L.A. Dodgers, who are also celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Dodgers’ arrival to Los Angeles from Brooklyn. Farmer John, makers of the impeccable Dodger Dogs, which are 10 inches long and so ingrained with baseball’s tradition in Los Angeles that a game wouldn’t be the same without them, has built up its market to the point at which Dodger Stadium is often cited today as number one in terms of stadium hot dog consumption. (Farmer John is also a “proud sponsor” of several other venues including the Arizona Cardinals, the Los Angeles Angels, and the Staples Center.)
To help facilitate its progress in the pork products arena, the company built a new USDA-certified plant for sliced meats five years ago. Located in Vernon, south of downtown Los Angeles, the company’s facilities are spread out across several city blocks – a unique industrial site in a city known more for its movie studios.
From this location, Farmer John answers numerous trends in the marketplace. An example is the trend toward natural, minimally processed foods. For this market, the company offers its California Natural™ line of fresh pork, including spareribs, roasts and loin products. The company also markets California Natural™ premium smoked chicken sausages, consisting of a line of products with the natural benefits of no antibiotics, no MSG, no added nitrates, and no gluten. The flavors include Mango & Habanero, Chicken Brat, Cajun Style, Chicken Apple, Asiago Fennel, and Lemon Cracked Pepper. All six flavors are versatile and great to use as ingredients in such meals as pasta and rice dishes, as well as any stand alone meal.
The company also produces an array of tangy traditional sausage products under the Farmer John brand in both link and rope forms. These flavors include Polish, Louisiana Hot, and Red Hots.
But what kind of pork producer would Farmer John be without offering an assortment of ham products? The company has just launched a line of flavored six-ounce ham steaks to complement its already popular original variety. Now also available in maple, pineapple & mango, and clove spice options, these are fully cooked and ready-to-go, providing consumers with a taste that’s hard to top.
Farmer John doesn’t use an easy means to achieve great flavor. “Unlike some other brands, we still rely on a natural hardwood smoke for our bacon,” notes Jeff Frank, vice president of retail marketing. “The result is a savory bacon flavor with the perfect blend of smoke, sweet, and salt.”
Another trend the company closely follows is toward “fresh and local.” Serving primarily the western United States, the company competes with providers from the Midwest and East but because of its location, can offer shorter delivery times and fresher products prepared locally. With its strongest market in Southern California, Farmer John also supplies Hawaii, Nevada and Arizona, selling directly to stores as well as through a network of distributors.
The company follows a strict quality process, with many employees that are Six Sigma certified to ensure efficiencies at all levels.
As Farmer John continues the tradition started in 1931, it is also riding a wave of new understanding about pork products. Pork is a nutrient-dense food, meaning that its nutrient level is high in proportion to its calorie content. Pork contains a high level of some of the essential B vitamins, such as B12, B6, thiamin, niacin, and riboflavin. It is also rich in other nutrients, such as phosphorous, zinc, potassium, iron, and magnesium. One three-ounce portion of pork also provides approximately half of the daily requirement of protein.
With its strong recognition in southern California and its ability to bridge demographics, income, ethnicities, and genders with its products, Farmer John continues its innovation into new products while also participating in its communities through charity and outreach work. Recently the company rolled its Taste Express vehicle to a local school to serve lunch during a music program, ensuring that its products will inspire a whole new generation.