Chris Hodges, a pork industry leader with substantial senior management experience in agriculture, will join the National Pork Board as its new chief executive officer on February 16. Currently based in Kansas City, Hodges is senior vice president – business development of Smithfield Farmland.
“When I first joined what was then Farmland Industries as a grain division manager, I joined a farmer cooperative,” said Hodges. “Over the years, I have grown to understand the needs and challenges facing pork producers. From product marketing to disease management to sustainability, I look forward to working with the National Pork Board staff and board to develop the tangible tools and grassroots programs on behalf of America’s pig farmers.”
Hodges brings to the Pork Checkoff decades of in-depth knowledge and innovation in marketing pork to key U.S. food retailers and into international markets. Much of his fresh pork marketing experience includes direct producer outreach and involvement related to adopting on-farm practices specifically designed to improve overall meat quality.
“For the past 30 years, Chris has dedicated his career to the pork industry, building and leading teams to meet the emerging demands for protein in both the U.S. and international market place,” said Dale Norton, president of the National Pork Board and a pork producer from Bronson, Michigan. “He knows this industry so well and, over the years, has given back through volunteering his time and expertise in several areas.”
Last June at World Pork Expo, Hodges publicly endorsed the Pork Checkoff’s swine industry audit task force as it unveiled a single, common approach to streamline how pork is produced in the U.S. This new industry standard for auditing pork production aligns many diverse practices into a common protocol. It has been supported and accepted by pig farmers, packers, processors, retailers and others throughout the pork supply chain.
Hodges is also a retiring board member of the National Pork Producers Council. He served as chairman of its Packer Processor Industry Council since 2013.
Prior to his current role, Hodges advanced at Smithfield Foods – a $14 billion global food company and the world’s largest pork processor and hog producer. He previously served as senior vice president, fresh pork and industrial sales at Farmland Foods, and led the sales and marketing teams for its Smithfield® and Farmland® brands. His industry expertise includes business development, sales and marketing, retail and foodservice outreach, new equipment and processing specifications management, risk management, feed and grains oversight and developing integrated information and technology systems.
“As we move forward with the implementation of our new 2020 strategic plan, we feel confident that Chris is the right person to lead the organization,” Norton said. “He brings not only years of professional work experience, but first-hand knowledge and insight into our changing industry. We welcome him on board.”
Hodges’ first week on the job will include meeting with producer leaders at the National Pork Board’s annual unified research committee meeting, February 17-19, followed closely by speaking at the National Pork Industry Forum in San Antonio, March 5-7.
Hodges, raised in Laurens, Iowa, is a graduate of Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa, with a focus in international relations. He also has a masters of arts in international affairs from Columbia University. Upon obtaining his graduate degree, Hodges was a project manager at the U.S Department of Agriculture, assigned to the U.S. Agency for International Development where he managed extension projects in international grain markets. He later earned a doctorate in agricultural and applied economics from the University of Minnesota.
Jon Leafstedt, Jim Gerardot, and Ed Yuhas, principals with Kincannon & Reed, a global executive search firm focused on the food and agribusiness industry, assisted the National Pork Board and its search committee in the recruitment of Hodges as chief executive officer.