#17: Alejandro Hernandez – Kitchen Supervisor at Pederson’s
Alejandro Hernandez Podcast Transcript
Neil Dudley: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Pederson’s Farms Podcast. We are so excited you’re here. We appreciate you joining us, and we look forward to sharing these conversations with thought leaders from our industry. They’re going to paint a picture from every perspective – consumer, customer, vendor, employee, and peer – that I think is going to be super valuable and we’re really excited to share. So, thanks for tuning in. Remember, don’t tune out and grab life by the bacon.
Hey, everybody out there in YouTube land, listening to us on the Pederson Farms Podcast. I am super pumped, super excited to introduce you to a guy named Alejandro Hernandez. He is a guy that’s been working with us at Pederson’s for a good while. He’s now our kitchen supervisor. Is that right?
Alejandro Hernandez: Yes, sir.
Neil Dudley: And part of the goal with this podcast is to give people an insight, a glimpse into our story, our people, the employees of Pederson’s, along with consumers, customers, vendors, all these stories that make Pederson’s what it is. And Alejandro certainly has one. Why don’t you tell everybody a little bit about where you came from and how you ended up at Pederson’s? Then we might talk a little bit about your journey to becoming the kitchen supervisor and what that looked like.
Alejandro Hernandez: So, this was probably right after high school. I was just a little kid coming out of high school, just I remember working at a hardware store and I’d just been there maybe two years or so. And then I came across one of the employees here, Luis. I was like hey man, anywhere else, I kind of want to see where I can try out at that’s local. I like being here local because I know everyone here. And he’s like, hey, how about go try out at Pederson’s. I was like what is that? I never heard of such a place. He was like, dude, it’s a bacon plant; you never heard of it? I was like, nah. Well, we’re hiring, like come on. All right, so let’s try it. And I mean, I remember I was just nervous, I was like 18, 19 years old. I’m like, man, what is going on? A big place. I’m like all right. Yeah, that started about six years ago, but it’s about to be seven years for me here.
Neil Dudley: Cool. Now, so just a little further back, did you grow up here? Have you always been the living in this part of the world?
Alejandro Hernandez: I was in Mexico. I mean, I think I was 10 years old when I moved here. New culture, everything, I learned. I mean, I was here-
Neil Dudley: Did you know English at that point?
Alejandro Hernandez: No, sir, I was just straight Spanish, nothing. And I had good classmates.
Neil Dudley: How valuable do you find today that it is that you can speak Spanish?
Alejandro Hernandez: It’s great. I can communicate with everyone. And I hear a lot more Spanish nowadays and it comes in handy.
Neil Dudley: I wish so bad- I know when I was first working in the plant with the guys, [Simone Duerte 2:54] is a specific guy that comes to mind. He used to teach me a word in Spanish every day. Next thing you know, I could speak Spanish. I started listening to Spanish radio, watching Spanish TV and it was really valuable to me. Although I don’t use it, and it has gone. So, I think that makes you valuable to us, your ability to communicate in both languages. So, I think for the listeners, keep in mind the value of bilingual employees, of having two languages yourself, even three, four, five, all of that stuff just adds to your value as a communicator. So where were we? You were talking about getting hired here.
Alejandro Hernandez: Yes. And I mean, I came here, and luckily, I knew some people here, so it was a lot easier. And I mean, everyone was just nice to me, friendly. I mean, everything has changed since then. Everything’s new, even new faces now. But man, it was great. I was hooked on it. I like to come here to work.
Neil Dudley: You didn’t mind the cold weather?
Alejandro Hernandez: No, no. I mean, surprisingly at first, but then you just get used to it.
Neil Dudley: Yeah. Maybe that’s the thing we should talk about is it does take a little bit getting used to. If you go start or apply for a job at a production plant – and I said cold weather, what I mean is just we keep it cold. It has to be cold to keep pathogens from growing – get ready for two or three weeks of just aching bones.
Alejandro Hernandez: And then when it’s like 110 outside, you go from- You just got to get your body used to that. I mean, you’re going from 32 to 34 degrees up to outside when it is 110, man, that’s a big change. You just are going to have to get used to it. But once you get used to it, it was easy. I mean, you just got to get acclimated.
Neil Dudley: It’s kind of nice to come out of that hundred-degree heat and not have to work in it. My dad made me dig postholes and build fence and work cattle, all those things in that heat, and that’s tough.
Alejandro Hernandez: That’s the stuff, believe it or not, I used to do that. That was my summer job. After school or anything, I’d go out there and heard cattle, hay bales, everything. I mean, I was just doing all that outside work, hard labor in the heat. And then once I got over here, like man, such a change.
Neil Dudley: So, okay, that’s cool. To me, that’s really an awesome story. I mean, I appreciate you for a lot of reasons. The main one is you’re the kind of guy that’s willing to take responsibility. So, tell us, paint that picture of how you kind of progressed within Pederson’s and all the different departments you’ve seen.
Alejandro Hernandez: So, I think what really caught most of, at that time when I just started, the supervisors like point of view was just the fact that they saw me, and they were like- because I like to get everything done. I don’t know. I don’t know what you call it. I just, once I start it, I have to finish it or have to meet that goal, and I always like to do that. And if there’s someone that just couldn’t make it work or something, I was the first one to step up. I always stepped up. [inaudible 6:07] I don’t know, I was like, well, you got to get it done.
Neil Dudley: So where does that come from? Where do you, why do you think you’re like that?
Alejandro Hernandez: Well, it came actually from my parents. Like they were always, they just put that in me. It was like you don’t want to be sitting there just waiting to be told, you just got to have that initiative all the time. Just have that initiative. If you know that it needs to be done, you don’t have to wait for someone to tell you to do it. If you know it has to be done, just go ahead and do it. And you go a long way that way. People will notice you. Like, you don’t have to be asking, if they know you’re doing it, they’re going to notice that. And just from initiative, and that came from my dad and my mom, obviously. I mean from school, which she was always with me doing schoolwork and everything, get this done. She wasn’t like a perfectionist, like oh, get it like this, but she was just always, you know.
Neil Dudley: Now, are your mom and dad still around?
Alejandro Hernandez: Yes.
Neil Dudley: Awesome. Cool. I hope they’re listening to this because I want to give them a big high five. Good job raising Alejandro.
Alejandro Hernandez: A good job with me and my other two siblings. I have a brother and a sister that are the same way, and we were just raised that way. I mean, at first, yes, it’s a little hard, but that’s just, I think it helped me a lot, the growing up.
Neil Dudley: You don’t necessarily appreciate it in the moment.
Alejandro Hernandez: Right, in the moment you are like, man, come on, like really? It’s summer; I got to go have fun. But it actually paid off as I was growing up. Because I was just like this is true. My father was always like you don’t want to be that guy that’s just sitting there, lazy, waiting to be told what to do. Just have that initiative, man. So, you will go a long way, just have that initiative, get it done.
Neil Dudley: So now that you’re supervising people, how much do you appreciate that?
Alejandro Hernandez: Oh, I appreciate that a lot. And I tell them. I’m glad that you were this way when I was growing up because I see some guys. I mean, I’m still 28, fairly young. I see older men and they’re just, like man, come on, get with it.
Neil Dudley: Well, in your position as a supervisor of a piece of our business, you’re probably having to supervise people that are older than you. So that’s where you really start appreciating and I call it responsibility. I think I so appreciate people that are willing to take the responsibility, like just say, okay sure, I’ll sign my name on it. Put me in coach; I’ll play the game.
Alejandro Hernandez: And that’s what it was when I was here. It’s not that, I wouldn’t say I wanted the position, but the fact that a lot of people were just kind of didn’t want to step up because they obviously, they did have that option, but no one wanted to step up. And I’m like, well, I’ll do it. It has to be done. And obviously if we don’t get it going, it is going to make the day longer. And it’s just that initiative. And I started learning everything kind of just because I was already-
Neil Dudley: That’s a great piece of the story. So, for you listeners, this is the piece of Alejandro’s story I think is really valuable and is part of what makes him valuable to Pederson’s, and really, if you think about it in a real big picture way, valuable to any and everybody that eats Pederson’s products. You’re valuable to them. You’re important to them. That product doesn’t come out with the same safety, quality, or efficiency if Alejandro’s not on the team doing what he does each and every day. And part of your insight is that initiative has moved you around in lots of departments. So, talk about all the different places you’ve worked. Or can you just follow the timeline? So, once you got hired, what you did and then so on.
Alejandro Hernandez: So, let’s see, I would say year one, I was- see, everything changed. We used to make the Epic Bars. And that was my first thing to do was basically just get the racks and get all the bars off the racks and put them in lugs so I can take it to the conveyor belt where they just go from there. And that’s where I started, just doing the heavy lifting, because we’re talking about 50, 60 pound-
Neil Dudley: Yeah, you came in as a young, strong guy and you got that work.
Alejandro Hernandez: I was like, okay. And the day went quick and I didn’t mind it. I was just doing that every day. And then eventually, they were like, you know what, let’s just go ahead and take you to packaging. I was like okay. So, I go to packaging. Next thing you know, I’m just making the boxes. And then a little bit later after that, we’re just like, you know what, how about you start learning your little programs here on the screen that way we can- depending on what type of bacon the customer wants or what’s their order. So, all right, let’s do that. So, I start learning, and Josh, our supervisor, is like he needs some help. I was like yeah, I’ll help you out, because nobody, they didn’t really want to mess with it. They were just kind of-
Neil Dudley: Scared of it.
Alejandro Hernandez: Yeah. They didn’t want to mess it up. And he said, well, we kind of need someone to do that. So, then I started learning how to take apart machines and put them together and mess with the programs. So, what we needed to get done that day. And I mean, from there, just kind of was running the line for a little bit. And then I was there for like three years or so. And then they’re like, you know what, let’s go to the kitchen, which they were doing sausage. And then from there it was like let’s just learn how to make- give me the sheet to make- with the ingredients.
Neil Dudley: Alejandro is talking about all kinds of stuff – I say all kinds of stuff, a lot of things that nobody’s really going to understand. If you haven’t worked in a meat plant or a packaging plant or any of these things, some of what he’s talking about is going to be a little bit foreign, but really what he’s talking about is just the details. Making a box – somebody has to make a box for our bacon to go from our plant in Texas to the Whole Foods store. Matter of fact, behind me, we’ve got the Nature’s Rancher website. I think a lot of people may not know or haven’t heard that Pederson’s owns Nature’s Rancher. Nature’s Rancher is our exclusive brand in Whole Foods Market. So, anybody shopping Whole Foods, look up Nature’s Rancher. It’s getting made by, or at least, a lot of that product is getting made by Alejandro and his team, his counterparts here at Pederson’s.
Alejandro Hernandez: And I’m so glad, like I work with the group of guys and, honestly, people, they’re always just going 110%. I mean, they’re doing a great job. And I wish they could see how- I mean, we don’t, I wouldn’t say all of this equipment- I believe ours is the best bacon due to the fact that it’s basically almost done my hand. Like every part of it’s like by hand. We don’t have like such fancy equipment you see in these big industrial plants, and I think that’s what just makes it better. I think anything that’s done by hand where it feels like it’s coming from like a human being putting their work into it is going to be a lot better than all his fancy equipment. Because I mean, I think that’s the reason why our bacon is really good, like better than the competition I guess you could say because with people actually putting their work into it and we’re doing it step by step.
Neil Dudley: And your pride. You’re proud. I feel like you’re proud of what you do.
Alejandro Hernandez: I’m proud of them; I’m proud of what we do. And I believe that’s why we’re up there with the competition because, I mean, it’s from them, their hard work that they’re putting in every day.
Neil Dudley: Yeah. So, listen to that folks. Here’s a guy that does that hard work and he’s proud of it. And we’re certainly proud of our brand, our products, all those things. And as part of the podcast, we’re highlighting peers, people that also make bacon that compete with us for maybe these listeners’ dollars, and we think that’s probably fair too. That means we can’t take a day off. We have competition. We have other groups of people just like Alejandro who are working hard to make great products. And we can’t take a day off because that only gives them a step closer to our greatness. Okay. So, did you ever spend any time in the shipping and receiving piece of the business?
Alejandro Hernandez: I almost did, but they were like, nah, you need to be back here. I almost did. I mean, I wanted to, that would have been the one spot I never got to. I mean, because everywhere else, I was like, man, you need to be around here, and we really can’t have you up there. You need to be up here, just we need you down here. It’s like, okay. I’m okay with that. Actually, I did go to the smokehouse. Well, see, from there, before the smokehouse, I was actually working where we prepare the bacon depending on the orders – you got no sugar, sugar, apple, hickory, all that.
Neil Dudley: You’re mixing the brine.
Alejandro Hernandez: Making the brine and preparing the bacon before, which is again done by hand, the workers are hanging the bacon on our trucks or trees or carts. And then from there, I was doing all the little details in the order and what they wanted for that day. And then from there, I went to the smokehouse. Later on, it was we need another smokehouse. So, then that’s when I went to smokehouse, which is where we get smoke for our bacon, give them color and all this and that, but it was like, yeah, I volunteered for that too. So now I know how to run that. So, I’ve kind of been everywhere.
Neil Dudley: That’s right. You know it all. And that’s, I don’t know, to me, I appreciate that about you and your willingness to go after it and go get it. I want that picture to be painted for other young high school kids that are right now sacking groceries at a grocery store or building fence, whatever that might be, there is a career if you’re willing to accept the responsibility and have the initiative within processing plants here at Pederson’s. Matter of fact, we need people. I mean, in this world today, it’s hard to, I’d say, I want to say it’s hard to find help. I don’t know if it’s really hard to find help but it’s competitive. So, we have a lot of competitors looking for those people’s, I guess, time, labor. Really what Pederson’s needs is people’s time. And then it’s our job to inspire the culture of pride in the work, pride in the products, all those things. And you do that every day. For fun, let’s tell everybody kind of what you do daily, like paint a picture of what our process looks like through your department. So maybe when the fresh bellies are here, what happens to them from there on?
Alejandro Hernandez: Okay, from there on, this is when we start preparing like the kitchen. It’s kind of like, I would say, where it all starts. That’s the beginning, Monday morning, fresh week, here we go. So, we get in our bacon from the shipping department. They’re bringing us in bellies, which come in boxes. And we look at our orders like, okay, we got to make, for example, we need no sugar bacon this morning. We’ve got to make it today. So, we will get one of our guys to go get it with we call it a pallet jack, and we’ll drag it in and we’ll weigh it out, and say we do 1800 pounds of bellies into a tumbler. And I mean, like I said again, this is by hand. We’re hooking every belly, every single belly, each belly is like 12 to 15 pounds, I’d say. And here we are, two guys just throwing them in there.
Neil Dudley: Timeout. What is a tumbler? Or are you fixing to get to that?
Alejandro Hernandez: Yes, sir. The tumbler, basically, it’s a- a way I can explain it is if you folks have seen a cement truck with the- you see that round deal on the truck spinning. That’s kind of the idea of what a tumbler looks like when we’re doing it. So, we’re just throwing in all our bellies in there. Once we get to the weight, we’ll do that on every single one. Once we tell the guys, hey, we need this brine, which is your flavor, thrown in there, like we need no sugar bacon brine. So, then we’ll weigh out whatever the amount is, go ahead and dump our brine into the tumbler, and then all these are vacuum sealed. So that way it’ll spin three hours. And that way we get that vacuum, and that vacuum will get our flavor, brine, into our bellies. While we’re doing that, we’re just letting them basically absorb all of the flavor.
Neil Dudley: See, I love that. I want to just put a little color to it. That’s one of the things I think really sets our bacon process apart from other bacons, that is the tumbling process. So, we put that vacuum in this tumbler and it opens up the muscle fibers so the meat, the belly is able to soak up the brine instead of what a lot of people will do is inject with needles and just kind of force it in there. It’s just a different way of thinking about. I like to think our bacon has accepted the flavor where other people’s bacon has been forced the flavor. So, it’s just a difference. And I love for people to get to hear that story. All right, so now you’re tumbling the bacon. What happens after that?
Alejandro Hernandez: After that, we get our timer going on tumblers and I was like, all right, it’s time, boys, let’s go get to work. That’s when we get prepped. We bring our tables, and we just slowly release that vacuum so that way we can take the lids off. Because, I mean, it’s vacuum sealed in there. We’re letting the air- that way we can take the lids off. And that’s when the guys are doing their hard work.
Neil Dudley: Well, see, it’s almost a moniker around here. It’s almost like a badge you wear. If you’re on the bacon crew, it’s kind of a special thing. These guys are the bacon crew.
Alejandro Hernandez: The bacon crew, those guys are great. They work their tails off every day. They’re ready to go. And I mean, once they start hanging, I mean, it’s all by hand. You’re hanging your bellies on that. So, you get about 56 to 70 bellies on that, depending on the belly size and all this and that. And that’s when it comes to we weigh them. And that’s when we go into the smoking process, and we have them in there four and a half hours or so until we get to the temp which is very important to kill all that bacteria, to make sure we get our smoke, our color.
Neil Dudley: Yeah, that color and smoke is tricky too. It’s not just a simple, it’s going to happen like that every time.
Alejandro Hernandez: Sometimes we might have to smoke it longer. We just got to get it just right so it looks great for the customer.
Neil Dudley: I think that’s a personal touch that people don’t understand is there is a guy, Alejandro, who looks in the smokehouse and says hmm, those don’t quite look right, we better go a little longer. Or you look a couple of times throughout the process so you make sure you can adjust those settings to where you get just what you want.
Alejandro Hernandez: Right. You don’t want to burn it, or you don’t want to undercook it, or you don’t want to have just an off color. I mean, you want it to look good as if you’re going to eat it. Like if I want to eat it, I want it to look the way- If I’m going to start looking at it, it’s like this is how I want it. That’s what I’m looking for. It’s like if I’m going to buy it, I want it to look this way. So, I’ll make sure that it’s the way I would like to see my bacon. And it’s not just four and a half hours. It could be a little longer, five, maybe five and a half.
Neil Dudley: Or maybe a little shorter on just a perfect day.
Alejandro Hernandez: It could be. It’s just depending, believe it or not the weather out there, it makes a difference because you got that humidity and you got to look all these other little things that does affect it. And I learned that as I was back there because sometimes it’s just how the weather is outside. It’ll affect the inside, which that’s something I picked up.
Neil Dudley: You don’t think about that until you go do that job. Just go do the job a little bit people. That’s when you can learn so much is actually just in doing the work.
Alejandro Hernandez: Yes, sir.
Neil Dudley: All right. Well, let’s see, what else? So, let’s tell everybody just some of your favorite things about Pederson’s, and then we want to talk about some of your least favorite things. I’m not here on the podcast to just say, ooh, everything is great at Pederson’s. There are tough things here. Sometimes it is the people, sometimes it’s just the job. So, I guess let’s start with the fun part. Like what’s your favorite product or your favorite thing that you do?
Alejandro Hernandez: Well, let’s see, my favorite thing to do honestly- Well, let’s say what I like right here. When I come here, I mean, all these years, obviously there’s new faces, but there are some faces that have been here even before I was here. I mean, you make that bond like with family, basically like family, because you’re coming here every day and you’re just talking to everyone, everyone is just your friend out here. I mean, honestly, it’s not like, oh, you know.
Neil Dudley: Well, you end up spending more time with these people at work then you do with your family.
Alejandro Hernandez: Exactly. And so, they kind of just become your second family. So, everybody knows everyone. And you walk in every morning, hey, good morning. How are you? How was your weekend? You just socialize with them during our break hours or whatever, at lunch and that’s great. And then we just, we became really, honestly, everyone here is pretty close. Everybody knows everyone. And that’s the thing about being local. It’s another thing I like. We just see them at the store – hey, you know. And that’s the great thing. Sometimes, now we go to where it’s not so great. Sometimes maybe you can be overwhelmed because you have so much going on; it could be, let’s say, personal life or something and stress. It’s just, you can’t say not every job, you can’t be stressed or you’re having an off day or a bad day sometimes. Like it happens, wear and tear. Like sometimes equipment just kind of malfunctions. So, you just kind of have to wait until it is fixed, and it could make your day longer. But that’s just how it is. I mean, it’s just normal. I mean, it’ll get done. It just happens. That’s the only bad part sometimes. I mean, eventually like every machine or anything that you operate, it’ll go out, and a part or something needs to be replaced and it’ll take a little bit making the day a little longer. But I mean, that’s about the only thing really that sometimes just slows you down a little bit. You want to get it done, make it a quick, easy day, but sometimes it’s just life. It just happens. You can’t control it.
Neil Dudley: I think that’s a leadership perspective you have. I think anybody listening, if you want to be a leader, if you want to move up within an organization, within a team, within any- just think about almost any scenario, that leadership is going to be really important and that understanding that, hey, this job, the next job, the job I came from before, the work I do at home, being a part of my family, that’s all going to have stressful times. And the trick is to understand, hey, that’s just how it is. Get past it, fight through it, keep going, lean forward, I like to say. Because then once you get to the other side of that, man, that’s smooth sailing too. We tend to as humans, I think, focus on bad, the tough, where really, if you really measure it, life is only tough about 10% or 15% of the time, but we stay focused on that. So, it’s just one of those things. I think it’s really cool that you’re able to recognize that and paint the picture for people if you are going to come work at Pederson’s, that’s going to be a reality. You’re going to have to be a part of our family. We expect that; we want you to be a part of our family. You’re going to have to be able to work through stress. It’s overwhelming when it gets busy, especially now. We’re recording this in November, so the holidays are upon us.
Alejandro Hernandez: It’s going to be stressful.
Neil Dudley: It’s busy. It’s stressful. I’m stressed. I mean, I can’t- you can ask. We’ve got the peanut gallery here by the way, Mr. Cliff Brunson, he’s running the audio visual for us. Yeah, you can ask Cliff; we work together pretty closely, and I certainly get stressed about stuff, especially when, in the world today, prices are going up there. Everything’s more expensive. We have to, we need to, it’s part of our reality that we need to pay our people more in order to keep them, those kinds of things, all that stuff is tough. Cliff, while you’ve been over there listening, is there something that you’d like to know from Alejandro that I hadn’t asked him that you think somebody out there listening might want to know?
Cliff Brunson: I think one of the things I’d like to touch base on is obviously Pederson’s and Nature’s Rancher, we do higher welfare stuff with animal welfare. From your position as a supervisor, how do you feel about that? What care do you take in raw materials coming in, making sure everything is separated appropriately? What does that look like in your world in terms of all the animal welfare stuff that we do?
Alejandro Hernandez: Well, see, basically, I mean, we always follow our protocols. We always as far as when we handle raw product, let’s say, we tend to always change- make sure there’s no, in other words, cross-contamination or anything like that. We just stay in our own little area. And if we’re going to have to move around, we follow the protocols – wash your equipment, change gloves, everything, come out here and get a new smock because we wear smocks. And if people don’t know what smocks are, you see a doctor, you see their lab coats, that’s pretty much what it is. If we are dirty or anything, we got to go and clean, clean your area, respect that, you don’t want to cross-contaminate. You can’t be going from you got raw products, you can’t go to a fully cooked area with products. That’s obviously you’re-
Neil Dudley: I’m just going to jump in. Because I think what- let me help you a little bit. Cliff is wanting to know a little more in-depth insight into the yield sheets. Like what makes them different? What makes- let’s say we have GAP bellies, we have antibiotic free bellies, we have organic bellies. How do you guys handle that kind of stuff?
Alejandro Hernandez: Okay. So, when we handle that stuff, obviously, the first thing, we look at our order. And everything, if it’s from organic, we will always make sure that we have- We have our own set of, well, like our yield sheets where we write all our stuff down, we’re color coded. Everything’s color coded.
Neil Dudley: When do you run organic in the day?
Alejandro Hernandez: See that’s most towards the end of the week when we’re done with our regular-
Neil Dudley: Just pick it for a day. If you were going to run organic and antibiotic free in the same day, when would you run the organic stuff?
Alejandro Hernandez: The organic would be last or second, I would say, because we usually, what we do is we’ll rinse out, wash our equipment. Because it’s organic, it has to be just strictly organic. So, you know whatever-
Neil Dudley: So that’s kind of counter-intuitive to me because I would think you would run it first. That way it’s coming into brand new washed equipment from the sanitizing team the night before. So then organic is first, then you would know whatever comes after, it’s for sure going to be antibiotic free or what do I want to say?
Cliff Brunson: Organic already meets all of the criteria for the second run.
Alejandro Hernandez: And usually when we do this, it’s because we’re already getting ahead. So, we leave our stuff for the night guys to come in and already have it cleaned. So, it’s more of a Thursday or Friday when we’re about to be finished because usually organic is run, I don’t know what the schedule is. Because they’ll have a day where they’ll just run strictly organic, so it can- but when we’re doing that, we keep in mind, or again, usually, because our orders usually are more demands from your-
Neil Dudley: Other thing. So maybe we picked a bad example. So, let’s take this example. What about GAP? So, something that meets the GAP requirements or something that doesn’t. How do you handle that? The same way?
Alejandro Hernandez: Right. See the good thing about that is we- you can’t mix obviously. So, we’ll keep them separated. We have a fresh morning, everything. We’ll do our GAP on just this load. And we have just that one crew of guys just handling that. And then we’ll have another group of guys just handling that other area with just that. We keep them always separated. We never mix them.
Neil Dudley: Well, it’s the same thing. So, it’s a great way to paint the picture of the truth. Like you are thinking about that like second nature. It’s almost weird for us to even ask you the question, like, oh man, why do I- how do I do it? It’s just second nature to you. It’s the same as keeping a no-sugar recipe separate from a hickory recipe, separate from an apple recipe, separate from a dry rub recipe. It’s the same stuff.
Alejandro Hernandez: We always keep in mind, I always do that when it comes to, when we’re looking at our list of okay, if we have days where we have to have both at the same time, okay, so the guys are like how would we do this? So, what I’m doing is let’s just have these tumblers, we’ll go from- We have five and a big one. So, we’ll focus the majority, let’s say, thank God for that big tumbler back there, it holds about 8,000 pounds of belly, so the majority can just go in there or we’ll use it however much we need just for that product, if it’s GAP or antibiotic free or organic. With that, we don’t have to worry about, oh man, how are we going to figure it out. We can just keep those tumblers, we’re going to be running that type or brand of bacon that we cannot mix, we just keep them for that process of what we’re going to make just throughout the week or however long we need it. That’s how we keep it- maybe I kind of got confused a little bit. But that’s what we do. If we know we’re going to be running that type of bacon that you cannot mix with other product. So we’ll just keep those using them until we run out and do the rest separated-
Neil Dudley: By using one of those other ones. Yep. I think that’s one nice thing about having five tumblers.
Alejandro Hernandez: Oh, it’s nice. It used to be a lot harder. We grew a lot.
Neil Dudley: That’s right. When I was doing it, we had like three tumblers, and they were two 500 pounders and one a thousand pound. We thought that was just amazing. So, it’s funny– It’s fun also for me just to remember where Pederson’s has come over time. Now, Cliff, did we get all of that meat off the bone? Do you think that painted a picture for the listeners of the kind of attention we give those things?
Alejandro Hernandez: Yeah, so we always keep in mind when we’re working with different bacon, we can’t obviously mix this and that, or if you have your no-sugar-
Neil Dudley: So why do you have to do that? Like, why do you have to do that? Do you know?
Alejandro Hernandez: Well, see, and I believe, for me, the way I could explain it would be honesty for the customer.
Neil Dudley: That’s what it boils down to.
Alejandro Hernandez: Yeah. I mean, you can’t, I don’t know, I’m not there at plants, but obviously, we’re looking out, we have great QA around here. I mean, they also keep an eye on everyone to make sure we’re following the guidelines.
Neil Dudley: Who keeps an eye on QA?
Alejandro Hernandez: That would be-
Neil Dudley: Yeah, me. Or even more importantly is the United States government and auditors. Like we have- I’m sure you feel the pressure from leadership that uh-oh, the auditor’s coming. We have to- now it’s inevitable, and anybody that acts like this isn’t true is just not telling the truth. When the auditor comes, there’s more pressure. Now, we absolutely intend to have a culture that says we’re going to do the right thing each and every day. But it’s just a different feeling when the auditor is in the room.
Alejandro Hernandez: When you have that pressure and somebody is watching you, like you’re in trouble with your parents when you were a kid.
Neil Dudley: You’re under the pressure that they may find a record we didn’t keep right, and we’ve done that. We absolutely mess up sometimes. But people like Alejandro, people like Cliff, me, we really do want the consumers to feel like they can trust us and we’re just being honest and transparent. And man, if we can do that, I think people will find value in it.
Alejandro Hernandez: Right. And it comes to just honesty. When we are working with different types of products that you can’t mix, it’s like also the way I like to tell my guys like we’re just going to do it this way because it just has to be a habit. When it comes to being audited, we already have the habit of doing it, so we’re not worrying about, oh my gosh-
Neil Dudley: Now let’s change it and do it right today.
Alejandro Hernandez: Exactly. It’s always be done right. You just got to have it done right.
Neil Dudley: It is tough to really implement that because, I’m sure you’ve been there, maybe you haven’t. Let me ask you the question. Have you ever had to throw away a tumbler of product because it got the wrong stuff?
Alejandro Hernandez: Yes, it has happened, unfortunately.
Neil Dudley: And that’s when people start lying and cheating, I mean, we just don’t do that. You have to feel the sadness of watching it go to waste.
Alejandro Hernandez: Exactly. And then I feel bad for myself because I’m like, man, I wasn’t doing my job. That is when it comes to putting myself down, I’m like man. But sometimes, it just happens. Mess ups do happen. And we had one time, what was it? At one point we were doing hams and it was ham brine, and he threw it in the bellies. And it was labeled. And I don’t know what this man was thinking, just an off day, and he just put brine on 2000 pounds of bacon. Like ah, dude. I mean, it costed- it has to be thrown away. You can’t sell this product, and we just take the loss there and you just got to report it and this happened.
Neil Dudley: Well, it happens to every company.
Alejandro Hernandez: Exactly. You can’t always be perfect.
Neil Dudley: And I want anybody listening to think about just have that culture of not finger-pointing like somebody made a mistake. I’ve made mistakes. Maybe that helps me because I’ve been there. I’ve actually made those exact mistakes in my career. So good people are still good people. We all mess up and sometimes it costs the company some money, and hopefully we do it very little so price to the customer can be the best possible price.
Alejandro Hernandez: And we always address that. I mean, mess ups will happen. But it’s very rare. Like it’s almost rare, like maybe once a year or two years.
Neil Dudley: It hardly ever happens, but we remember it.
Alejandro Hernandez: But we remember it. It’s like you see what happens here, we’re all in trouble. It’s not just you, it’s everyone because everyone’s there to ask each other questions. Everybody’s responsible for what happens. And obviously there are accounts where I’m getting onto you for doing that because-
Neil Dudley: There has to be accountability.
Alejandro Hernandez: Exactly. And that’s part of just being on a team and obviously the other guys feel responsible. It’s like, man, look, you’re there with them. You’re all together, just pay attention. Help each other out.
Neil Dudley: You might need the help next time. Alejandro, the kitchen supervisor for Pederson Natural Farms, ladies and gentlemen, this man really does a whole lot of stuff that I hope you’ve got a small glimpse into his passion for our business, his job, and the people he works with. Thank you so much for listening to the Pederson’s Farms Podcast. Alejandro, thanks for being on here, man.
Alejandro Hernandez: Thank you for having me. And I really enjoy it. I love this job. I mean, I love everyone here.
Neil Dudley: Awesome. Cool. Now, if you’re just saying that because I paid you off camera, now tell the truth.
Alejandro Hernandez: Nah, that’s not true.
Neil Dudley: Thanks, everybody.
Hey everybody. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of the Pederson’s Farms Podcast. It’s been a blast bringing this to you, and I sure hope you enjoyed it and found value. If you did, tell a friend, share it out on social media, hit that subscribe button, or go check us out at pedersonsfarms.com. We sure hope you do. And thanks for being here.
Visit us at www.PedersonsFarms.com
(1:07) – Alejandro’s background & journey to Pederson’s
(5:24) – Alejandro’s work ethic & his
progression through Pederson’s
(14:33) – Prepping the famous Bacon!
(17:00) – Alejandro’s Day to day
(23:00) – What’s your favorite part of the job? Are there bad days?
(27:15) – How do you feel about animal welfare and its impact on your role?
(33:43) – Thoughts on auditors & quality assurance
(38:20) – Wrap Up
The Pederson’s Farms podcast is produced by Straight Up Podcasts & Root and Roam.