#68: Jim Murray – Channel Market Development Manager at the National Pork Board
James Murray 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, Pederson’s faithful, everybody out on YouTube right here at the podcast on the podcast. I guess I’ll give Riverside a shout out. I use the Riverside platform to record these things. And we’re doing one today. I’ve got a guy named Jim Murray with the Pork Board joining the show. He’s got- he wears a- what would you call that shirt you wear there, Jim? What is that? Is that a chef shirt? I just don’t know.
Jim Murray: Chef coat.
Neil Dudley: Okay. So Jim was a chef coat, and it’s got a lot of emblems on it. It tells me he’s done some work in his career to get those. So Jim, real quick, tell us who you are, what you do a little bit, and what do those emblems mean?
Jim Murray: Okay, well, I work for the National Pork Board. And I’m a corporate chef as well as what we call market development manager, so domestic market development manager for pork. My background is approximately 40 years as an executive chef. I’m a certified master chef as well as a global certified executive chef and have worked in virtually every aspect of the food service industry, starting from being a dishwasher all the way up. And so yeah, that’s kind of my background.
Neil Dudley: There you go, folks. That’s why it’s so important to have Jim on the show. He’s got 40 years in an industry, in a place where food comes from. Like, when you go eat, somebody, maybe Jim, maybe somebody very much like him, is in charge of those recipes, those teams within the restaurant, maybe even within hotels and these kinds of things. And Jim, correct me if I’m wrong on any of this. I mean, so I guess I should paint this picture also – I’ve known Jim for about a week. We got to know each other at the World Food Championship. We’re doing some judging of the bacon category, which kind of fits us pretty good. He’s a pork guy, I’m a bacon guy, which makes us both pork guys. And so we judged that. And I just really enjoyed being around him. I thought he had a lot of knowledge that I don’t have. And that’s the kind of people I like to talk to, the kind of people I like to have on the show. So let’s just dive into some of these things that Jim knows intimately and specifically and has all the street cred you could possibly want when it comes to this stuff. So I kind of want to say first things first, what is the trick to a good pork chop? I mean, everybody needs to have a good pork chop.
Jim Murray: The real secret is an accurate insta read thermometer. If you take the temperature of a pork chop at its core, which is in the deepest, thickest part of the center of the pork chop, and pull that off the heat source, whether you’re sautéing it, whether you’re roasting it, whether you’re grilling it, you pull that at 145 degrees, and then let it rest for three minutes, all you need for seasoning is salt and pepper, and you’re going to have a great tasting product. It’s really about cooking it to the correct degree of doneness. It’s not, oh, where did you get that pork chop? It doesn’t matter, I cooked it correctly. I could have the best pork chop on the planet in terms of the quality of the meat, and you can screw it up pretty fast by not cooking it correctly. And we fought that battle as the Pork Board for a long time because it used to be that USDA required proper cooking temperature to be 165 degrees. And we just know that that was way over. We campaigned very diligently to try to get that changed to 140. They said 145 with a three minute rest. We said okay, well that’s 27 degrees less than where we were before, let’s go for it. And so, we’ve had good success with it. It’s a continuous learning process for both consumers as well as chefs to get them to cook it to that particular degree of doneness.
Neil Dudley: Why is that so hard? It seems like, to me logically, it’d be kind of easy. Hey, don’t overcook it. It’s going to be better. It’s going to taste better. It’s going to be a better experience for everybody. Don’t overcook it. And why has that proven to be a tough sell?
Jim Murray: Some of its cultural. And that depends on your ethnicity. Certain ethnic groups will not ever eat a pink pork chop, no matter what. They just, it’s their cultural upbringing. I grew up in a household where my mom and grandmother would have cooked pork chops to 190 degrees and then cooked them three more hours just because you didn’t want to get trichinosis, that kind of stuff. We haven’t had trichinosis in probably 40 years in domestic pork in the United States. And so the safety of pork is not the issue. If you were to have parasites in your pork, every parasite that lives in pork would die at 138 degrees. So, it’s just some cultures are not probably going to ever convert. But there’s a whole lot of people that you could convert that just don’t have the information. And that’s one of the things that we do at the Pork Board is education. It is really trying to get that information out there through all the channels because nowadays, everybody’s got a computer in their pocket. And they use that as their trusted resource, not necessarily the people that really have the information or the science behind it. They don’t want to hear about the science, they want to read it on Google. And if Google tells them, that’s what it is, then that’s the gospel.
Neil Dudley: Sure. Well, that’s partially why we’re doing the podcast. It’s a way that hopefully Google finds this conversation and lets people learn from this, maybe more so than another resource. I mean, not saying all resources are bad. But if you’re not out there having that conversation where Google can find it, you got kind of no chance to get in front of some of those, I was going to say some of those people, really all those people who use that resource. So I really take my hat off to the Pork Board for the work you do. Why don’t you- well, okay, I want to come back to the Pork Board, but I got to touch on trichinosis. We haven’t had a case in 40 years, you said specifically domesticated pork. Should I be worried about these wild pigs here that are running all over Texas? And I’ve had people ask me this question. It is one reason I’m asking you. Is this in your wheelhouse of expertise?
Jim Murray: I would say, I mean, we obviously aren’t out promoting wild pork and wild pork consumption just simply because there are a lot of wildcards. I mean, there’s no biosafety hazards in the production of wild pork and wild pigs. And they’re opportunistic. They’re going to eat anything. And so they’re going to eat dead animals and things like that. And that’s where they can pick up trichinosis. And if you don’t cook them properly to kill it, then you could run into ultimate issues. Whereas domestic pork production really spends a lot of time concentrating on making sure that they don’t have parasitic activity, that they don’t have other diseases that get into their herds, that sort of a thing. And so that would probably be my advice is that if you’re going to eat them, better cook them well done.
Neil Dudley: Yeah. All right, good deal. And I have friends that are eating- they’re hunting these wild boar, they’re feeding them to their family. I think it’s good, just kind of prudent activity to cook those where you’re not going to have to worry about potentially getting sick or having any of those issues. Now back to the Pork Board. What is the Pork Board or how is the Pork Board founded or funded? Like you do a lot of stuff, somebody pays you money to do that work. Where does the money come from?
Jim Murray: We work on behalf of all pork producers in North America as well as importers that bring pork into America, which the Pork Board feels, even though we’re importing it from other countries, it’s raising all ships. And so, it was founded in 1985 by the Pork Act as kind of the overall encompassing entity. And what it is, currently it’s around 62,000 American pig farmers. And what they do is they contribute 35 cents out of every $100 of pork that they sell towards our organization. And we’re under the auspices of the Agricultural Marketing Services Division of the USDA, the United States Department of Agriculture. And we basically only do three things. We do research, we do education, and we do promotion of pork. And it really is to strengthen the position of pork in the marketplace. We know that pork is the number one consumed protein in the world, we just need it to be the number one protein in North America. And so that’s what we get up and do every single day on behalf of the producers of pigs.
Neil Dudley: So what is the barrier to that? I mean, so I know that beef is probably the number one consumed protein in the US, then chicken, then pork. How do- why is pork in the world the number one, but in the US not? Do you have- just like what’s your pulse on that?
Jim Murray: Pork has had a bunch of hurdles that have been placed against it, whether in certain cases, it might be a religious hurdle, it might be cultural. I mean, they’ve had a lot of roadblocks set up that the other proteins didn’t necessarily have. And we also are in a very affluent society by standards around the world. And so as your society gets more and more affluent, they tend to go after the richer and richer proteins. And we just, that’s why beef probably rises to the top. Chicken, it usually rides out the storms of economics. And so like, let’s say, right now when the economy’s not so great, and people are starting to tighten their belts, that sort of a thing, they tend to weather those type of economics better than pork and beef would.
Neil Dudley: They’ve got a quicker growing turnaround. Like, you can change something-
Jim Murray: You’ve got a year, year and a half on beef, we got six months on pork, and we got six weeks on chicken.
Neil Dudley: See, a lot of that stuff is just information I think most Americans don’t have. I mean, I would love to walk down the streets of, I don’t know, New York, LA, Chicago, pick any one of these kinds of metropolitan areas, Dallas Fort Worth, and just start asking people, how long does it take for chicken to get from a bird to your plate, and see what those answers are. I’m sure that it could be some pretty interesting stuff. I wouldn’t have known that if I wasn’t in the business, in the industry of just being raised in animal agriculture. So I’m glad we talk about it. I’m glad we mentioned it. There’s a chance somebody hears this and says, oh, well, that’s interesting. That paints a picture of some of the real economics of animal protein. Now, this is more of a selfish question than anything, it’s really for me, for Pederson’s, and others may be interested too. What is the best way for me to engage the chef community, the culinary community to learn? I’m kind of interested in claims based pork and products because that’s what Pederson’s does. What’s your thoughts on that? Do you have a position, or as a guy who’s just promoting pork period, it doesn’t matter much?
Jim Murray: We promote across all multiple arenas. And so, whether it’s domestic consumption consumers or its professional food service and all the different aspects that might entail, we certainly work with all of those. And I think that everybody, once again, is very interested in the transparency. But at the same time, that transparency comes along with the educational element of you have to explain to chefs as well as to consumers what does this mean? I don’t understand that it’s hormone free, that it’s antibiotic free. I mean, I’ll go on my cell phone and look it up and maybe get an idea of what you’re talking about. But it really kind of comes from once you’re fully transparent and you can explain all the elements that you’re talking about, whether it be on your packaging or in your advertising or just in conversations with people, then they start to trust you. And with that trust, then you’re able to explain your story and why you think it’s important. I think we had a conversation about what I feel are the three elements of premium pork production. And that is, that’s the genetics of the pigs that you’re raising. That’s the feed that you’re feeding those pigs and the scientific diets that are created for those pigs. And the third thing is the atmosphere that you’re raising them in, whether that be in a climate controlled bio secure barn or whether that be outside, depending on your geographic location and temperature zones. Although we’re getting 40 degrees in Wisconsin, so that’s a god send around here at this time of year.
Neil Dudley: I was going to say is that cold or hot?
Jim Murray: No, that’s warm for this time of the year. We’ve been having like low 20s and snow. So any 40 degree.
Neil Dudley: 40 just sounds like super bundled up weather to me. That’s funny how geographically, even in simply America, from Texas to Wisconsin, your perspective on stuff is just really different. It is so- it’s kind of what makes even being in the food business very dynamic and interesting and fun. Because the perspectives across the country on different proteins, different sausages, different foods in any kind of scenario is different. It’s one reason you can have 40 years as an executive chef and still have new things to learn and figure out. That’s got to be part of what makes it fun. Do you agree?
Jim Murray: Oh, totally. I mean, even just last week seeing the dishes that people were cranking out at the World Food Championships, it is like every day is a new adventure, every day. You could- we’re in Dallas Fort Worth area, you can go to a Mexican grocery and find things that you’ve never heard of, seen, tasted, whatever. You could go to a Laotian store. You could go to- and that’s the kind of cool thing now is having been around long enough, I’ve seen Mexican, Italian, that sort of thing, evolve into micro cuisines. And now, it’s down to all the different regions of Mexico that you’re getting things from, that sort of thing which is very exciting.
Neil Dudley: You’ll find Taqueria Jalisco, which is a specific region of Mexico. Other ones, I can’t come up with a different one off the top of my head. That was the first one. But that is so true. It’s actually happening in the restaurant business in Texas and all over the country, and might be Italian somewhere else. I’m curious- Well, real quick shout out to Mike and his team over at the World Food Championship. That is just an awesome event. I want everybody to think about competing in a satellite event, trying to earn the right to go compete at the World Food Championship. It is really cool. It was a lot of great friends. The culture in the chef community is really cool. And I’m starting to learn about it. It’s kind of reminds me of the rodeo world, just like hey, you need a couch? Come on over. I mean, it’s like a just very, very family kind of atmosphere. What got you in to- like, how did you turn out to be a chef?
Jim Murray: I got out of school with a fine arts degree and an art education degree at the time that was the worst time to be an art education teacher on the planet. And I had worked in college at my sister’s supper club doing everything from hosting to bartending to washing dishes to helping on the cooks line, that sort of thing. And literally, it was either going into the military as an officer and go to officer candidate school in the Marines or go back to school to be a chef. And I did it at the twist of a hat, went back, got my apprenticeship and did that. But other than my sister and her husband having a restaurant, my family, we raised Black Angus cattle, horses, and back when I was younger, raised pigs, chickens pretty much the whole diverse culture of the farm, that sort of thing. But yeah, that’s how I got into it and just got hooked on the adrenaline of the kitchen and was fortunate enough back in the early 90s to get hired by a corporation and become an international chef. So I was able to travel all over the globe and work in kitchens all over and meet all different types of cultures, that sort of thing. And that got me from there into the meat side of the business. And I’ve been in the meat side of the business for about 16 years now, which was a change from the other consumer goods side, sauces and gravies and that sort of thing.
Neil Dudley: I don’t imagine the credentials you have are free. Like they take some effort. Where does that come from? Like, what makes you want to go be better? I think this is kind of more of a- we’re moving away from where food comes from a little bit because I also like to explore the stories of the people that I’m talking to. So okay, cool, yeah, you kind of accidentally became a chef. But what kind of- where do you think this drive to be the best chef you could be comes from?
Jim Murray: I think it came from the fact that I wasn’t the type of chef that was able to go into three Michelin star restaurants and become an apprentice there and then move up through the ladder, that sort of thing. I did it by association and by driving myself. And so, being more close into the meat world, when I first started in the meat world, it was just like I’m going out and I’m taking every short course that every meat science lab in North America had. And so I’ve studied at Texas A&M, University of Minnesota, University of Wisconsin, all these different places, just learning about what’s the science behind it because I didn’t know the science. I could make the stuff. But this told me why you can make it and why it’s going to work out and why you make a good set of bacon versus a really bad set of bacon, that sort of thing. And so it’s really just driving myself. I’ve got three degrees in college. And yet, I probably have 600 hours of college level classes that I’ve taken since. I just still take classes all the time online. So it’s just one of those things.
Neil Dudley: I want to say yeehaw to that, like continual learning. Keep learning, anybody, everybody listening, young, old, whatever. That’s kind of a great thing in life. It’s kind of a great thing about working with guys like Jim, for me. They’re always challenging themselves to get better, to learn what’s kind of a new thing happening. That’s a thing that was kind of at World Food Championship I learned – wow, there’s some technologies, some kind of mad scientist stuff going on in these culinary home kitchens, actually big executive chef test kitchens that nobody even knows about, but it’s going to produce the next really fun set of innovations in the restaurant. Did you see any of the same thing? Or is all that- am I just really ignorant and I think it’s new and it’s been around forever?
Jim Murray: No, I think, you’re seeing it applied at the street level. I mean, it used to be molecular gastronomy and the ability to take alkaloids and things like that and change textures and change temperatures of this is a hot ice cream, this is a cold sauce, those sorts of things. Now, you’ve seen it where people are teaching themselves. And the one gal in particular that was making different flavored snows with maltodextrin, that sort of a thing, you would have never seen that except at the highest level. And now it’s like you can buy it off Amazon and you can go on YouTube and learn how to apply it and then just your own creativity. And I think that’s what’s interesting is that the gal I’m thinking of in particular, she actually is like a three time champion. So if you have the same judging community that’s judging your stuff, you got to come up with new and different little tricks and things that are going to push it beyond the scope of oh, I never even thought that you could do those sorts of things. I mean, it’s one thing to create a vegetable. It’s another thing create an entire snow out of a vegetable.
Neil Dudley: It is beautiful. It’s so- I don’t know how to say it other than cool. It was just cool. It was a cool experience to be a part of. I’m looking forward to doing it again next year. Okay, so for anybody who’s maybe saying, okay, Jim’s cool, the Pork Board sounds interesting. How about some of those resources? I got to imagine, does the Pork Board have some resources for people just to educate themselves about pork and how to cook it and these different things?
Jim Murray: Certainly. Pork.org would be the most direct one. And that’s the one that has cooking techniques, different recipes, all of that sort of thing. And then if you get over into the side of wanting to understand sustainability and what it is in the pork industry, that sort of thing, then we would encourage people to go to porkcares.org. We also have porkcheckoff.org which is really kind of geared more at producers. So I talked about education. Education comes in two forms. Number one, it’s educating consumers, chefs, that sort of thing. But it really is educating producers. What are some of the best or newest ways of raising pigs that will help you? What are nutritional regimes? What are some ways that you can help prevent having disease issues on your farm? That sort of thing. And so that one would definitely be a good resource from that standpoint.
Neil Dudley: Everybody, you don’t have to be taking notes, all you got to do is go to the show notes. We’ll put links to all of this stuff, all of those websites Jim’s mentioned, his LinkedIn, these different places, so you can learn more. Because look, we’ve had 30 minutes. We’ve jumped topics here, kind of batted around a few different things. There’s so much more to learn. We couldn’t really teach it all to you or even tell you about all of it in this 30 minute session of a couple of guys who like each other talking about pork. We’re excited about it. We love the industry. We’re making our careers in this industry. So I just want to make sure you go look in the show notes, follow up with some of those links, and get that education. All right, Jim, what about- so as a guy who wants to be more involved with the chef community, what’s the advice you could give me? Am I doing the things that I need to do to get- I feel like meeting you is one good way for me to get involved in the community. Are there other things that people like myself or maybe other entrepreneurs are thinking well, this is interesting, maybe I’d like to try to infiltrate that community. What’s the trick to it? Is there a trick, or is it just be a good person, come get to know us?
Jim Murray: I think it’s really just getting yourself out there. And if you’re a smaller company that doesn’t have the marketing resources of a very large packer processor or value added processor who really concentrates on hey, we make really great quality bacon, how do we crack that code? First of all, try to decipher who your target customers are. If I was looking at chef organizations, the American Culinary Federation is one. The Research Chefs Association that a lot of people don’t know about, but that particular arena has to do with people that manufacture products. And so they might take your bacon and be able to create meal solutions or sauces or soups or things like that. And they all- many of them work for really huge multinational corporations so definitely have volume. Flavor Forays is kind of an interesting smaller upstart group that tends to bring in a limited number of people to their events. But at the same time, when they do, these people purchase billions of dollars worth of food. They’re the executive culinary director for Marriott Hotels globally, that sort of purchasing power. And so I would say get out there, show your product. Like I said with the transparency, explain to them why you think your product, and you don’t necessarily have to be disparaging to other brands. That’s one thing that is interesting with the Pork Board is we’re packer agnostic. So when it comes to somebody that says hey, do you know somebody that makes premium bacon, we will say, you know what, based upon my experience, these six or seven companies both have the capabilities of producing what you’re looking for and the capacity in order to meet the volumes that you need. And so that I think is a big thing, just getting that out there and utilizing organizations like us to make the inroads with the particular chef group. We can get the appointments for the most part, just simply because we are not carrying a box of whatever on our shoulder, which I did for a long time. Just letting them know, hey, here’s 5, 6, 7 companies that have the capabilities and capacity to meet your needs. Do you want to see some samples? And a lot of times that’ll be the breaking ground is just giving them some samples and letting them play around with it in their test kitchens, because all of the big groups all have test kitchens, they all have culinary directors, that sort of thing, and teams of chefs.
Neil Dudley: Yeah, well, that’s it, work. Do the work. Get out there. There’s no shortcut. Somebody said the other day, like there is no shortcut. Forget that lie you’ve been told. There’s no shortcut to growth, success, profitability, any of those things. It takes blood, sweat, and tears every time for everybody. So you’ve certainly highlighted that and given everybody a great glimpse into yourself, the Pork Board, and really the chef community. I appreciate you coming on the show. I appreciate being connected to you now and having a friendship. I hope you know if there’s anything I can do for you, I want you to let me know. I’m not going to be shy about reaching out to you either.
Jim Murray: Well, I appreciate the opportunity. Thanks, Neil.
Neil Dudley: Well, yeah, and I got to admit, it was kind of embarrassing that I didn’t know you already. I mean, we’re in the pork business, and I didn’t know Jim. So as a guy who kind of prides himself in having the kind of network that I can access and use. Here’s one of those instances where, boy, I was missing the mark. So now it’s super exciting for me. I really am glad to share the conversation. Everybody, come back next time to this podcast or YouTube channel and hear from somebody else who is going to have a really valuable perspective or conversation, we’ll have a good conversation around where your food comes from. Thanks for listening. Thanks for being here. If you want to give back to the show in some way, share it, tell somebody what you liked. If you didn’t like it, tell me. All right, Jim, thank you, sir. Have a good one. And let’s hope the temperatures stay high up there, 40 degrees.
Jim Murray: There we go. Thank you, sir.
Neil Dudley: 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.
Did you know that it is possible to make hot ice cream or snow out of food? At the World Food Championship it is! This week, host Neil Dudley is joined by James Murray. Murray has 40 years of experience in the industry, works for the National Pork Board, and is a professional chef. They discuss the incredible innovations seen at the World Food Championship, how Murray became a chef, and the importance of continually educating ourselves, consumers, and producers in the pork industry.
(0:44) – Introducing Jim
(3:09) – What’s the secret to a great pork chop?
(7:30) – Trickonosis in wild pigs
(9:15) – How is the Pork Board funded?
(10:55) – Why is pork #1 in consumption globally but only #3 in the United States?
(13:34) – Claims-based pork
(18:57) – What’s your journey to becoming a chef?
(20:41) – What gives you your drive?
(23:24) – The science behind cooking at the chef level
(25:08) – What resources does the Pork Board offer?
(27:25) – What advice would you give someone to connect with the culinary community?