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Livestock semi trailer leaving a farm yard National Pork Board

Bridging gap between producers, plants

Swine's Promising Next Generation: Pennsylvania pork professional finds best of both worlds in hog procurement.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the definition of the word "procurement" is the process of getting supplies. However, if you ask Melissa Boess, whose job is in hog procurement, the definition is much more complex.

"There's just so many different things that apply to hog procurement, a lot more than one would normally think," Boess says. "You have the markets, there's a huge economic piece to it. Then you have to factor in how hog prices work into the company, and where everything's going. I've gained a much greater responsibility."

It's a responsibility Boess has not taken lightly after taking the position as director of hog procurement with Clemens Food Group in 2019. Since graduating from Penn State University in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in animal science and a particularly strong interest in meat production, Boess has worked her way up through the ranks at the Hatfield, Pa.-based pork production system.

Courtesy of Melissa Boessnhf-boess-clemensfoodgroup-770.jpg

Currently, Melissa Boess oversees 25 to 30 contracts with producers from Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Illinois who supply hogs to Clemens' Hatfield, Pa., and Coldwater, Mich., facilities.

She spent her first six months in Clemens' leadership development program, which exposes employees fresh out of college or not familiar with the industry to all aspects of the business, and to working with various employees in senior leadership.

From there, Boess went on to take positions in project management, food safety and quality control.

However, when the job in hog procurement opened up seven months ago, Boess knew it would be a good fit.

"I felt like it was a good position to kind of snowball my interests together, and then be able to be in a spot where I'm able to still get involved in the product side a little bit, especially if we're making genetic changes or anything of that nature," she says. "I'm kind of able to wear both hats and talk to both sides of the business with this role."

Connection with producers
A Warrington, Pa., native, Boess didn't grow up on a farm but was active in showing livestock through 4-H, and she spent a year working on a dairy farm. It's those experiences Boess says have helped her connect with the company's contract growers.

A typical week for Boess not only involves reviewing harvest numbers from the past week and preplanning anticipated harvests, but it also includes relationship building and constant communication with Clemens' contract growers.

"We're a little bit unique because 99% of our supply is contracted. We very rarely buy anything on open market, so I do a lot of different things with managing those contracts," Boess says. "Some of our suppliers have multiple contracts, so I'm always working on the next one that might be expiring soon. I also make sure that we're working well with all of our suppliers and plant teams to make sure that everyone is happy."

Currently, Boess oversees 25 to 30 contracts with producers from Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Illinois who supply hogs to Clemens' Hatfield, Pa., and Coldwater, Mich., facilities. From working with producers on transportation and weather-related issues to making sure the producers are compliant with Clemens' antibiotic-free and ractopamine-free product lines, Boess says communication with producers is daily — and is something she is thrilled to do.

"Growing up showing animals in 4-H and working on farms in high school and middle school, and even through college, I wanted to have that connection with the producers," Boess says. "When this job came about, I was really excited to take everything that I've learned about hogs, what happens to the hog once it gets to the plant, and be able to apply that and benefit the suppliers."

Where does the 30-year-old see herself five to 10 years down the road? Boess says, hopefully, right where she is.

"I'm not planning on moving out of this position for a while. I'd like to see where I can take it," she says. "I do love the industry. I'm not looking to leave the industry, and I've gained a big appreciation for our producers."

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