Chicken Scratch: a Profile of Farmer Focus

From Meating Place
Chicken scratch: a profile of Farmer Focus
By Tom Johnston on 2/2/2024

The long-sleeved, full-length smock, helmet and hairnet aren’t doing much to help Millie Munguia. In the surgery room-sterile confines of Farmer Focus’s new chicken packaging plant in Harrisonburg, Va., she’s cold — almost shivering. She can’t wait to get back to the nearby harvest facility, where she supervises the evisceration line. Over there, despite the comparative mess —blood and guts, no glory — the Puerto Rican native enjoys the warmer climes.

For now, though, Munguia endures the cold. At least they’re playing some music: Mark Morrison’s 1996 hit “Return of the Mack,” anyone?

Whatever it is that makes a worker happy on the job, especially in these otherwise uncomfortable environments, is the primary driver of a successful processing operation. “Morale and safety are the most important things right now; if they’re taken care of and all their needs are met, operational challenges don’t really arise,” says Jamie Young, chief operating officer at Farmer Focus.

As the company name and brand suggest, there’s a devotion to the well-being of the broiler grower, the foundation of a producer-processor partnership on the flip side of traditional contractual arrangements. But on either side of the plant’s four walls, respect for people permeates the production continuum and reflects an evolving definition of a comprehensively sustainable business.

From top to bottom at Farmer Focus, it’s personal. Made up of former integrator contract growers and integrator employees alike, the management team is intent doing business differently. Theirs puts a premium on generational farmer prosperity and consumer trust, not only by way of traceability back to the broiler house, but also by making claims-based products more affordable. With a recent transition in the corner office, the company aims to elevate both its processing and farming practices as it scales up and seeks more market channels.

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