Estimating Whole Hog Value Specialty Meat Marketing Experience

A long time ago, I worked for Prudential Insurance as an international auditing VP, going around the world finding the book cookers. I got into too much trouble investigating money laundering scandals so decided to come back to Iowa and forget about the certified public accounting work. I decided I wanted to start cooking real food.


Thats why I started working on a kill floor. Why a kill floor? Im all the way down the bottom of the basement. Working with the kill floor, working with pig guts, thats where those smugglers will never find me. If they find me, Ive made so many friends on the kill floor who are armed with sharp knives! So, thats why I turned from a CPA to an offal-processing person.


By-product. I don’t like the word offal or by-product. I like the Canadians’ terminology, specialty meat. Specialty meat, I like that a lot.


When I go into Iowa Packing and ask the plant manager, what’s your percentage of yield if I’m buying ovary from your sow, he’s going to look at me and say, 100%. If I go into Hormel, the ratio is lower. Yes, there’s a difference between female and male there, but basically, the biggest price difference in harvesting method for by-product is what in America we call “slaughtering method”. In Mexican, they say “how you sacrifice the animal”. I love international terminology!


Skinning the hog versus scalding the hog. Different type of result, different type of end product, but a very similar type of profit margin. I was working with a group of companies to write their financial proposal, and this is very important to you because you want to know. My recommendation for the packer is, forget about what’s the revenue, how much you’re going to get, and look at how much you’re going to pay your processing, direct labor, direct costs. Basically, from an accounting standpoint – remember, I was a former cost-accounting professor at Drake University – I say, you are very safe for your financial projection to put $3, not revenue, but net profit into your by-product.


What do you do with pigskin? How many of you use pigskin here? For any purpose? How many of you don’t know? You’re using pigskin. How many of you have a pair of Nike shoes? Or Hush Puppies? Look at my shoes, I bought them in West Des Moines for retail value $220! I bet they’re from a medium sow skinned at Iowa Packing here in Des Moines, IA. I can see by the pores, you know. Ever day in Iowa, I take about 20 tons of pigskin from hogs slaughtered near Iowa, I turn them into shoe material for Nike shoes. Twenty tons a day, 4000 hogs a day, that turns into about 100,000 pairs of shoes a week. That’s a lot of money. That’s a lot of product. We can add value to a hog that way. What were packers doing about that hide before I started harvesting from them? Rendering.


What happens if you are scalding the carcass instead of skinning? Well, the largest provider of pigskin for leather material in the world is actually Hormel Foods. They have a scalding plant. What they do is, after they have a carcass like this, before they open up the stomach and take out the guts, what they do is they develop a machine, a round machine, and they push it in there turn this carcass and suddenly you take off this midsection. The belly skin. What do they do with it? They are the largest providers to Hush Puppies, Wolverine Tannery. Pigskin goes into your shoes.


When the leather market is terrible, they sell it to pharmaceutical companies. In the morning when I wake up and have a headache, I take a Tylenol. That’s pigskin. I mean, don’t tell me Muslims don’t eat pigs, don’t tell me Jews don’t eat pigs. I host a lot of Chinese delegations or Asian delegations that the Buddhist monks come in. Take them to the Iowa Machine Shed, “I don’t eat beef”, “I don’t eat pork”, “how about just giving me some gelatin?” Oh, my goodness. Well, Asians use vegetarian material to make gelatin. Guess where get ours from? Chewy, good, nice protein there.


Well, there are a lot of things we can do about product. Let’s just talk a little about what can be used from head to toe.


Whole head. We’ll eat meat from the whole head. Believe me, we do! My favorite, I love Mexican food. Tamales. All from whole head. They cook the whole head, get the meat out. That’s how they make tamales. I just found that out. Other than hot dogs, I‘m going to change my diet a little bit.


Ears. You go to a Chinese banquet. You sit down. They don’t give you French fries, they don’t give you anything else, they have a plate of sliced ears. Wonderful stuff. But, unfortunately, in the last 5-10 years, Chinese cannot afford to buy ears from America because we have wonderful American dogs. Their “mom and pop”, like me, will pay $1.20/lb for ears for pet food. Either scalded ears or from a skinning plant. You can use either/or. Ears are probably a little lower, under $1. But it’s always around $1/lb. That’s twice as high as picnic! That’s about the same price as Boston Butt. My goodness, don’t throw them away!


Cheek meat. Koreans take the cheek meat. The cheek meat is just a round piece. They slice it, butterfly open. They barbecue it. It’s a wonderful delicacy. They pay a very high price for cheek meat if it’s processed right.


Tongue. Another delicacy in Chinese food. You get anywhere from $0.60 to $0.80 for a pound of tongue. Asians love it.


Face mask, or snout. Mexicans love it. They chop it up; they put it in their tacos. Yumyum.


Glands. What do we do with glands? One little Mexican mom-and-pop shop will use 6 tons of glands every months. Just a little mom-and-pop shop in the middle of a little house. They use it to make sausage. They love it. They pay premium price for that.


Brain. Chinese believe that whatever you eat will improve that part of your organs, and apparently my parents didn’t feed me enough brain when I was young. The reason is, we didn’t have that much money so instead of eating pork brain, I was eating too much tofu. That’s soybean and it doesn’t help my brain.


Shoulder. Here in the United States we have a big pot of soup, a stew-type meal. In Korea, whenever family get together, you have neckbone soup, you have backbone soup. A regular family of three or four people, they will have a big soup pot. Mexicans, too, but the Koreans will use their big soup pot to make their backbone soup and neckbone soup, while Mexicans just use that big pot to put the whole head in there and make tamales. And we enjoy them so much.


Bones. It’s very interesting. Asians like the meat around the bones. Any kind of meat around the bone they pay premium price for that. You take picnic, say picnic price is $0.50/lb. You take the neckbone, say $0.15/lb. You put the two together, you combine part of the picnic meat at $0.50/lb, you take neckbone which is $0.15/lb, you put those together and make a neckbone rib steak, they call it carubee, you can sell it for $0.80 per pound. If you can cut it the way they want it, you can get a premium.


Another example, front feet. Maybe $0.20/lb. Hock, maybe $0.30/lb. You put the front feet and hock together, they call it lacont, you can sell it for $0.40 – $0.50/lb.


It’s what people want, from which part of the country. We talk about skin. The highest payer for skin is not actually the Mexicans, who eat a lot of skin; it’s not the tannery that uses skin to make their product. The market is still small, but the highest payer for skin is pharmaceutical companies, medical research, using it for burn centers and transplants to human bodies. Same thing for the heart; we’ll talk about that later.


When you get into the ham, back part, we have the femur bone, which is the number one choice for clear Japanese soup.


Tail. The Asian loves pig tail soup more than the European loves their oxtail.


In the middle section of a hog, there’s a lot of good stuff. Backbone. Rib bone. The rib bone market kind of died.


Rib bone. The Japanese like the single rib belly. What you do is, you take the belly, you don’t take out the spare ribs. Instead you take out those bones one-by-one. Gee, I asked, what are they going to do with those bones? Throw them away? What a waste. So, I developed a market in China using that to make their herb soup. They love their herb soup, in the winter it helps you, when you have a baby you drink herb soup, ginseng soup, to give you energy. They use those rib bones all the time. When I started selling it, I was selling it at $0.20/lb. After a year, the price actually went up all the way to $0.50/lb. For rib bone. Those bones that we just dump in the trash. Now it’s down again. But actually, realistically, the delivered price for those rib bones to Asia continues to be around $0.30-$0.40/lb. Not bad for bones.


Backfat/trim fat. The Mexicans love it. The Japanese like it for cooking. The Chinese like it.


Let’s get into red offal. Heart. When we look at the USDA sheet, it’s pretty much the commodity price. But if you pay a little more attention to what the customer wants, you can make a lot of money. Heart. Commodity price is maybe $0.15/lb. If you have a whole heart without slash, and just push the blood clot out of the heart without slashing it, you sell it to Asia, you make about $0.40 there. Big difference. They just don’t want anything slashed before they cook it.


Kidney. I was traveling with the governor to Taiwan in 1999. And we were in a grocery store. 1999. I believe that’s the year of Dragon, supposed to be a very good year to have babies. Any kids born in the year of Dragon supposed to be elegant, smart, whatever. Anything good you can think of. But don’t look at me, I was born in the year of the Dragon. That doesn’t apply to me. Must be Western Dragon instead of Eastern Dragon. But, why am I talking about the year of Dragon? A lot of people were trying to get pregnant, or on maternity leave. When ladies are on maternity leave, they have to eat kidney. A set of kidneys, in a little tray, selling in the grocery store in Taiwan, $10. Ten U.S. dollars per set of kidneys. In that year, I know we’re shipping kidney from the U.S. to Taiwan by air for as high as $3/lb. Can we always make that market? No. Because it has to be fresh, shelf life is 72 hours, your risk is high, but if you can do it right, the market is there.


Pancreas. Usually for pharmaceuticals.


Liver, spleen, lung. Pet food. The Chinese eat a lot of liver. Why aren’t we shipping liver to China when they eat so much of it? It’s not how much we charged them, it’s how much they have to pay for import quota, import duty, to get the product to the market. I think the market is slow, but eventually, especially with this NAFTA agreement with Mexico starting January 1, they do not have to pay import tax for our product going to Mexico. That will make a difference. Taiwan, China, entering WTO and eventually they’re going to do away with the quota system, that will increase our market for this type of product dramatically.


Green offals. The stomach, pouch stomach, you can sell it at much higher prices than butterfly stomach. That means you open it, you wash it. The Asian when they eat stomach, they just don’t want it to be broken. They don’t want broken hearts. They don’t want open stomachs. They want everything to be intact in good-looking shape before they cut it to eat.


Large intestine. By the way, I have to make a point here. The largest buyer for large intestine is not Mexico, is not China, is not anybody else. The largest large intestine buyer in the United States is actually an American company, producing chitterlings for American consumption in this country. This company alone purchased 70 truckloads of large intestine for their chitterling production. Seventy truckloads, equivalent to over 2 million lb, using your statistic, I love that. I calculated, divided by 1.5, divided by 250 days of kill, we’re talking about this company alone, American as white as you can be, American company, they are buying equivalent to 8000 hogs. Large intestines from 8000 hogs. Per day.


There’s a market, we just don’t know about it. When we talk about Asian market, don’t forget, there are more Asian, more Chinese in America and Canada than in the whole country of Taiwan. The largest population in Toronto is Chinese. Not white.


Small intestine. We don’t see a lot of prices for small or large intestine on the USDA price sheet because nobody reports it. Usually it’s done on a contract basis. Usually, the small intestine in this country is still being done using casing machine. You make it into casing, they ship it all the way to China. For what? Quality control. A person, old lady like May May will be sitting here selecting, oh, no hole, how thick, how big the diameter to determine what kind of sausage you make out of it. And once they’re done with the selection system process, what do they do with those casings? They send it all the way back to the United States. And go into our sausage production.


Ovaries. For those Chinese who cannot have babies, instead of going to the doctor, they just start eating ovary and ovary and ovary. And uterus. Hopefully to improve their system. Maybe it works. Look at that. As a result, one out of five human beings in this world is Chinese. So, if you have any problem, your wife, your kids, have any problems – eat ovaries. Eat uterus.


Bladder. I don’t want to get into too much, but there’s nothing, NOTHING we cannot sell. Other than toes. I haven’t figured it out, but I have an idea for eyelashes already. Most Asians have almost no eyelashes, and I think those pig eyelashes would look mighty good on those little eyes.


Other meat from the midsection. The skirt meat, the hanging tender. In this country, we trim. We spend time to trim that skirt meat, take out the membrane, to make it lean, to sell it to sausage, but if you leave those membranes on, the Taiwanese will pay you double. Why? The chewing gum business is not that well developed in Taiwan, so instead of chewing gum they want anything chewy, including hanging tenders. Including tendons. Actually, I didn’t mention it, but you can sell pork tendons for about $4/lb. In Taiwan, if you can figure out how to get it out of a hock.


Just to give you a few ideas here. That’s why I like to use this. Bungs. That’s rectums. We just don’t want to call them rectums. What do we use bungs for? No, nothing to do with constipation. It’s a macho food. A Japanese man, every day after work they go to a bar, they order their beer, they don’t eat peanuts, they don’t eat popcorn, they eat bungs. Deep fried bungs. It looks like calamari, it tastes like calamari, and boy, it’s yum-yum good. Price for bungs today, anywhere from $0.80/lb to $1.20/lb.


Another example here. Stomach. Today, on the USDA sheet, probably about $0.30. But if you process it right, you can be making $0.60.


So, total, very realistically, your product, your by-product is going to be worth about $10-$12 per hog. Just think about that. The profit from that $3, that’s equivalent to your tenderloin. Think about, if you kill a hog. Would you throw this $3 into the rendering? If you won’t, then why would you throw your by-product away? I have been working with quite a few producer groups in developing their marketing strategy to take their hogs to slaughtering plants for custom kill and harvest, and that’s why I’ve been helping them to develop a good understanding of what they can anticipate out of a slaughtering production. What kind revenue they can be getting, what kind of bottom line they can be getting from those by-products.


Hormel Foods gets value from just the midsection skin, ranging from the very low market $2 to $3-something. That’s only half of the skin. If you pay attention to it and if you work very closely with USDA, the most important thing in by-product harvesting is to spend time and effort capturing your by-product. Lack of sanitary control can contaminate your whole carcass production line.


You still want to market your primal cuts, but don’t forget that the by-products can help you. Most Asians sell their primals to pay for the hog, and the by-products are their net profit. Thank you.