Innovation, family and a customer-focused mindset were foundational for the latest National Pork Industry Hall of Fame inductee, William "Billy" Herring. With his successful career spanning more than 50 years in the pork industry, Herring today was inducted at the National Pork Producers Council's annual business meeting — the National Pork Industry Forum.
"Billy's contribution to the U.S. pork industry is second to none. He's influenced how pigs are raised not just in the U.S. but worldwide," said outgoing NPPC President Terry Wolters, a producer from Pipestone, Minnesota. "Billy has made countless lasting contributions to the U.S. pork industry and has led with values that he has instilled in the next generation of pork producers. We congratulate Billy for his induction to the Hall of Fame because the pork industry wouldn't be where it is today without his contributions."
Herring founded Hog Slat, which serves pig and poultry farmer's equipment and is the largest contractor and manufacturer of hog equipment in the United States. Hog Slat started as a solution to a supply chain problem when Herring was building a new nursery for the family’s 300-sow farrow-to-finish operation in North Carolina. In response, Herring created his own slats, and his quality workmanship and attention to detail was the start of a multifaceted international enterprise.
Herring's family is at the core of this success — which, by his definition, includes his wife, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and the 2,000-plus Hog Slat employees. Herring and sons Tommy, David and Mark work together managing the business, which remains family-owned, and includes a 30,000-sow farm and construction jobs around the globe.
Other companies began at the same time as Hog Slat to supply producers. But Herring's business model outgrew and outlasted the rest. "Billy was a producer himself," said Bynum Driggers, Ph.D., professor emeritus at North Carolina State University. "He saw the benefit and how people responded to the need for equipment and the technology he could provide. His company just kept growing and growing under his leadership."
Herring has recently retired, but the company upholds the direct-to-farmer model he established, allowing not only for affordable and quality products but also for service, research and development.