Farm Food Facts

Checking In on the Livestock Industry with Pilaroc Farms

May 05, 2020 USFRA Episode 75
Farm Food Facts
Checking In on the Livestock Industry with Pilaroc Farms
Farm Food Facts
Checking In on the Livestock Industry with Pilaroc Farms
May 05, 2020 Episode 75

Jennie Schutte and Walt Patrick, owners of Pilaroc Farms, discuss the changes they’re seeing in the livestock industry, due to COVID-19, and what can be done in the future to keep the food supply flowing.

Show Notes Transcript

Jennie Schutte and Walt Patrick, owners of Pilaroc Farms, discuss the changes they’re seeing in the livestock industry, due to COVID-19, and what can be done in the future to keep the food supply flowing.

Phil:   0:01
Farm Food Facts, where every former every acre and every voice matter. Welcome to Farm Food Facts for Wednesday, May 6 2020 May is Beef Month. So we've invited Jenny Shooting and Walt Patrick, owners of Pilaroc Farms, to discuss their changing supply model in light of the pandemic and how those changes are having them find new ways to sell their beef direct to Consumers Covid-19 could cost local and regional food systems, including farmers and ranchers, up to $1 billion for March through May, according to researchers from Colorado State University and the University of Missouri.  Jennie and Walt, welcome to Farm Food Facts.

Jennie:   0:47
Thank you.

Walt:   0:48
Appreciate you having us

Phil:   0:49
So describe for me, pre Covid- 19 What your business was like?

Jennie:   0:54
UM, pre Coben 19. Let's say, starting in January, you know it was a slower winter months. For whatever reason, once school starts in the fall, are business tends to drop off. I think people forget that they have to cook at nights, um, and so and so we were holding steady. We had decreased our numbers knowing we're going into our fourth year now, we knew our winners were always a little slower farmers markets were over with, and so we had slowed down on production from because we do beef, pork and lamb. And we slowed down off production just knowing we didn't want to fill our freezers and not be able to move it. And so we wisely thought that that was the thing to do. January. We were doing some deliveries just trying to retain our farmers market customers. And then we also set up our meat wagon, our famous meat wagon, every Friday in our local town, and people were able to get product that way. But business was pretty normal January

Phil:   1:52
And then?

Jennie:   1:54
And then it wasn't, I will tell you. It was the first address State of the Union, I guess from the president. It was on a Wednesday night and he said It's going to get bad and that Friday is a typical day that we set up in town in our local town, and when I sold out of hamburger that Friday, I knew things were about to change because, well, I always tell people I've said it for years Now. If we ever run out of hamburger, that either we're going out of business or the world is coming to an end and we ran out of hamburger. And it is is as those that do what we do. And so product beef, pork and dairy So beef to consumers. You know, it's hard to run out of hamburger selling direct like we do. And so when when we ran out of hamburger, I knew we were in trouble.

Phil:   2:44
So when I look at supermarkets over the past six weeks or so, we've seen meat sales dramatically increase. Ah, part of it is because we had certainly an earlier Easter. Part of it is we have this panic mode setting in with a lot of consumers who want to make sure their freezers are full of meat. Um, and we've also seen a lot more substantial increases in lamb, matter of fact, at the supermarket level. But then, you know when we look a at what has happened. In fact, just over the past week, with some plants shutting down with the president, deeming that all the plans should remain open, consumers are getting really concerned. Should they be

Walt:   3:31
 I mean, I have a lot of thoughts and have a lot of contacts, and Jennie does, too. I mean, I'm sure you all have some as well, just all over the country and in It was odd, you know, thinking about it, you know, as it is now, obviously, I still think it's gonna be worse before it gets better. As far as the supply chain, I think there were some early concern and I'd buying habits early on. Even, like, did you say in February my We were just kind of coming into this and and knowing little more as we went, I think certainly people changed their buying habits and which we had kind of laughed like, Well, in a month, nobody's gonna buy anything. Does everybody have a freezer full of bees? I don't think that's still not gonna happen, but you know, our thought of this being kind of a two month blip on the radar. I think it's certainly at this point stretching out to a six month Leo and because maybe possibly magnified by the fact that plants are running at lower capacities or not at all, it would be silly to think that it's not gonna be, you know, possibly a six month deal, So I certainly don't want to add to the already present quote unquote panic. But I don't see how it changes anytime soon to the better far supply chains and trucks and deliveries. And, you know, just knowing grocery store chains are selling out within a couple days and they only get a truck every week or so. So I certainly think it's gonna be a staggered release. You know, when this does, things do open up, things start staying, and we don't see that in the foreseeable future. So to make my long answer shorter, I certainly think there's gonna be another couple months of limited supplies of these are meat, not just bees, these pork and dairy products as well. So I hate to say that I mean, the panic is founded, but, you know, I think now we're just now seeing that there is a problem.

Jennie:   5:31
Originally, US producers across the country, we were saying, There's plenty of me. There's plenty of food funny and milk. It's a distribution problem, but as now we're getting months later, it's gonna be a getting the in products cut and into the trucks to us problem. It's not just a distribution problem anymore.

Phil:   5:50
So, Jennie, when you look at your future of Pilaroc Farms What? Here? What are you planning on? What are you doing now? You mentioned, you know, going Friday with with the truck to consumers. You know, I'm gonna ask a really tacky question. How are you going to stay in business?

Jennie:   6:11
I'll tell you, our demand right now is is through the roof. You know, all of us that that sell product like we do. I mean, well, we keep saying, Boy, if we knew this was coming, we would have planned differently. Um, I mean, right now, the second we get it in from our butcher, it is sold. The problem is finding a butcher. We worked with one or two butchers, and now we're up to six or seven butchers just trying to get dates on the calendar to get our animals harvested. But on the flip side, just because we can get dates on the calendar doesn't mean we have livestock ready to go, and and so that is a concern as well. People think that we're doing great because we keep selling out of product. That doesn't mean we've got something on the back burner. Thankfully, we do, um, that we we will be able to get meat to our consumers. And we were doing deliveries. We had closed our meat wagon are famous meat wagon. We closed it down people that they were treating it just like a supermarket. And no one was using their protective measures like they should have been. This was 67 weeks ago, so we shut that down, and I just started doing deliveries, and the state of Tennessee is officially open. And so we are. We're going back out tomorrow Friday, and we're gonna We're gonna see consumer how consumers are gonna act and if we are okay to be set up like a supermarket again. So we will continue to do that. We'll probably still do some some deliveries. Because, I'll tell you, we picked up a lot of new customers because of deliveries. Um, some folks didn't want to get out of their home. They may have had a child that was sick or they just had a new baby. I had one mom. It says I don't want to get out. Can you just drop it on my doorstep? ring the doorbell. I'll pay you through, Pay Paolo and we'll be on our way and we never have to see each other. So we picked up a lot of new business that way. And then, of course, we're working to retain that business. Back in January I wanted to start shipping nationwide May 1st, but because we're running out of product so locally so fast, we're holding off on that shipping model. 

Phil:   8:21
I want to go back to something that you said, And, I want to talk about the fragility of the supply chain. So, you know, first up, it was not having trucks that that could bring your product to the butcher and then from the butcher to wherever you were going to sell it. Now you're you're sharing that there's not enough butchers. What else have you discovered about the frailty of the supply chain for the products that you make that you know, you never thought you'd have to be faced with.

Jennie:   8:54
For me, the butcher has been far and away the biggest concern. Every person that ever had a pig or a cow in their backyard has all of a sudden realized they can't get fresh ground hamburger at Wal Mart. And so they say, Okay, let's take Bessie to a local butcher and they've swallowed up all of those available dates and that, you know, we have butchers, some of our favorite butchers, air booking into October, November Wow, that's great for those that have that Bessie in the backyard. But for for us that this is our livelihood, that is our biggest struggle. While do you think? Can you think of anything else?

Walt:   9:31
Well, sure. I mean, I think we could of this could be a conversation about just our business in general that there is a lack of. I think it's certainly magnified the fact that, especially regionally for us feel is the lack of butchers processors. I mean, we know the big guys and they're kind of on a different level, but regionally and locally, there just aren't that meaning around. There's plenty of guys that killed process. Do you know when you guys lose from different things, but so have pork, beef and lamb process? There's not just a ton. We have friends all over the country. The drive, you know, 456 hours to take animals to butcher, so I mean, that is certainly magnified that in itself. But that's been the situation for Russians. We started four years ago.

Jennie:   10:18
I wanted to add to Walt's Point. He hasn't said USDA inspected facilities In our in our county. We can throw a rock at three or four different processors that handle beef, pork and lamb and dear, but they are not USDA inspected. And for us to do what we do for us to sell direct to the consumer, we have to have that little USDA stamp on every single package, and those are few and far between and state of Tennessee.

Phil:   10:45
So I remember a couple of years ago, maybe even more than that, what was starting was almost a cottage industry of butchers that would come to you in a truck. That would be yes, you know, now what's what's going on with that?

Jennie:   11:01
I think there's two in the state of Kentucky. I don't I am confident there's not one in Tennessee, and I do not think there's one in Alabama were right on the Alabama border on, And so we go. You know, we are not afraid of 3 to 4 hour one way road trips to go to the butcher or more. And I don't know of anyone coming with a mobile facility like that in Tennessee and Alabama. But I would love to know of someone starting that how to get around the regulations, you know? Where do they where do they go with waste? Just things like that. But that would be fantastic to shorten the drives that we have to make, that we have to take our animals, that we have to take Teoh get product picked up

Phil:   11:45
and, you know, let's let's talk about Post Cove in 19 and whether it's six months from now, whether it's a year from now, you know, what do you think pile of rock farms is all going to be about? This was

Walt:   11:58
one of the things that I had thought like, This is gonna be something toe discuss that we kind alluded to factory 90% of people that called us after the second week of Corona virus, or 90% we had never talked to before or sold to board. And if we could retain, you know, 15 or 20% of that we will already be, you know, past are two year perspectives through your perspectives from January 1 of this year when we were planning Now what we're doing what we were going to do. So in that point, I certainly think people have been kind of reminded where food comes from it. You see that and it's literally shade, and we can only hope, you know, that it has kind of shown shined a light on the production model and where food done from. And, you know, we're pretty rural where we are, so our customer base is probably a little more intellects than normal. But I certainly think this is going to mean we're 30 miles from hunts. Deal 50 60 miles from Nashville, really don't want to repeat international market, But I certainly think this is gonna be one that helps us to expand into the Huntsville market on so Alabama eso, you know, look to those points right there, certainly going to help us in the future. We do expect

Jennie:   13:20
and tow waltz point, at least in my 40 years or 25 years of buying from a store that we have ever went to the store and they're not being hamburger on the shelf and So you are something. I mean, there's no breaded frozen chicken nuggets. There's no I mean vegetables were gone, and that's the first time in my history that that has happened. And so I think people are finally starting to say, OK, let's take a step back. If push comes to shove, where are we going to get product? Oh, hey, there's a local farmer that grows vegetables. There's a local producer that Selves beef, pork and lamb and I don't want to certainly throw this in people's faces, consumer spaces. But we've been here all along and thank you for finding us. And that's awesome. I hope you think of us when everything gets back to normal, because we will continue to be here and again toe waltz point, as we we want to retain those that have found us and are interested in creating a relationship with the local farmer. You know, we've got a hashtag that we use often local, 1000 miles fresher, and we're trying to get people to realize that there's a lot of local producers in your backyard. You just got to

Phil:   14:29
find him well, Jennie and Walt, Best of luck. It's great to see farmers who were innovative, who are being successful. And I know when this is all over, you know you're going to start shipping to me in Los Angeles.

Jennie:   14:47
If you pay, that shipping rate will make it happen.

Phil:   14:49
OK, well, thanks so much for joining us today on Farm Food Facts.  

Jennie:   14:53
Thanks so much.  

Walt:   14:54
Appreciate it, thank you. ..

Phil:   14:56
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 Or also be sure to look for us on Facebook at us farmers and ranchers or on Twitter at USFRA until next time.