New Legacy Pork Offers Win/Win for Farmers and Communities
By Arianne Pfoutz
“We’ll take everything you’ve got!” It’s a startup company’s dream: a plentiful supply; processing, labeling and branding procedures in place; and an established marketing giant ready to deliver the product to food chains nationwide and beyond.
That’s the potential percolating from New Legacy Pork of Fairfield, brainchild of farmer and businessman Dean Goodale. CEO Goodale and his partners Cliff Rose (marketing) and Dennis Roland (finance) are anticipating the launch of a regenerative, responsible agricultural venture using a high standard of non-GMO, ethical and environmentally positive animal husbandry that offers farmers an alternative to CAFO farming. This additional option offers robust incomes and a healthier environment for producers.
“Farming full-time since 2003, I know how complicated and hard it can be,” Goodale said. “I understand the plight of hog farmers. They need to make a living. Industrial agriculture offers them a way in; they can get loans and get started. But the $750,000 loan [for a 2500-head confinement] is steep, they don’t own the pigs, the environment is toxic, and it’s basically a maintenance job. They have to wait ten or more years to see healthy profits. Most of them have full-time jobs in addition to the CAFO to make ends meet. We want to offer them an alternative.”
The idea emerged from the strong and growing preference of millennial consumers for transparency, food safety and ethical practices. “They want to know where the meat comes from, how animals are treated, what’s in the product (no antibiotics, growth hormones, GMOs, etc.) and if growers’ needs are met,” Roland said. “These are more important to them than the price point.”
Goodale, aware of local growers producing hogs to meet these standards, saw an opportunity: non-GMO pork products raised to Global Animal Partnership (GAP) Step 3 animal welfare standards. (See Sidebar on page 9.) Rose and Roland approached Daymon Worldwide, the global leader in development of retailer brands that represents most major grocery chains in the U.S. and EU, with whom they had worked previously.
“Daymon’s marketing department knows the trends in the meat market, and the market for non-GMO, sustainable meat is huge,” Rose said. When asked if they could place New Legacy Pork’s hogs, Daymon responded that they’d been looking for this product for some time. Currently, they ship 40,000 pounds of specialty pork weekly to Japan alone, and are eager for more product. Daymon is looking for New Legacy to supply 300 hogs per week now, getting up to 2,000-3,000 weekly as soon as possible. “Check back in 15 years and we’ll tell you if you can slow down, they told us,” Roland added.
Goodale came up with the name “Big Belly” for the branded products: “Big Belly Bacon,” “Big Belly Chops,” etc., to the total delight of Daymon’s creative department.
The Lure: Profits, Health, Livelihood
Response from local farmers has been overwhelmingly positive. Goodale reached out to an Amish hog farmer in Wayne County, who is raising non-GMO pork using GAP Step 3 standards for animal welfare. “When we told him the premiums he could expect with New Legacy, he was very surprised and said he’d talk to fellow farmers,” Goodale said. Two weeks later, 80 producers showed up for meeting, heard the requirements, and nearly all were ready to sign up. New Legacy will also offer profit-sharing plans.
Benefits for farmers include a low-cost entry point ($50,000 to $150,000 investment for startup), significant premiums, a healthier environment to work in, and the possibility of farming full-time, often an unfulfilled dream.
“Farmers can raise a fraction of the animals for the same profit, with fewer animals, less manure, reduced financial risk and infrastructure cost, and with more potential for financial gains,” said Goodale.
Environmental impact is also a huge selling point, Rose said. “The flooding of hog manure lagoons in North Carolina from Hurricane Florence has brought awareness to this massive problem. Waste from floodwaters is getting into homes. It’s a problem that wouldn’t even exist if animals weren’t raised this way.”
Rose mentioned one ranch hand who got so sick working in a CAFO he was forced to leave saying the switch saved his life.
A Financially Feasible Business Model
The opportunity is exciting and the business model simple, says Roland, who also grew up on a family farm in Fairfield. “We’re a marketing company, coordinating between Daymon and producers,” he said and aided by excellent relationships with both parties. The price point for organic was too high, but the non-GMO, GAP Step 3 point hits the market beautifully, he said.
New Legacy Pork contracts with producers, who agree to grow to certain certification standards. The producers incur the costs of production, and when hogs are ready for market, New Legacy buys them and handles processing, packaging, and shipping to stores. “A large portion of our farmers are Amish, and they finance themselves,” said Goodale. Farmers who want to join can usually get loans through local banks.
Marketing will include a combination of all social media along with traditional forms of advertising: radio, TV, and print. “We sell on the basis of a strong market—there aren’t many products bigger in the U.S. than bacon,” Rose said. And there’s not much competition, Niman and Applegate primarily, but neither is producing a non-GMO, GAP Step 3 product. The sheer size of the market makes competition a non-issue.
A Natural Symbiosis with JFAN
JFAN is fully supportive of New Legacy’s goal, as it offers a real solution for farmers as an alternative to building CAFOs. In fact, one farmer expressed a desire to sign up but instead proceeded to build two CAFOs because funding wasn’t yet in place.
“Building a relationship with the Farm Bureau—an instrumental body for CAFO farmers to get started—will take time, but people on both sides agree this is a good thing,” Goodale said.
“JFAN is an important partner in this, credible and hardworking,” said Rose. “It’s a win/win, for sure,” Roland added. “Farmers can be economically viable (and then some), while the environment is protected.”
“New Legacy Pork is exactly the type of company needed to support a shift away from factory farms back to regenerative farming,” said Diane Rosenberg, President and Executive Director of JFAN. “This is the future of farming, not CAFOs.”
All agree that New Legacy Pork could become a major player in the quality, sustainable, non-GMO meat market. “The golden trifecta—People, Planet, Profits—is perfectly illustrated in this opportunity,” Rose noted.
With all three present in spades, it seems to be an opportunity none of the parties want to pass up. Raising hogs the old-fashioned way could provide the boons so desperately needed today.