Transcript/Biography

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"The Iowa Beef Packers. It was actually Iowa Beef Processors. They started in Denison, Iowa. That's who I first started working for when I went to the, came to the country. The country market. In other words, direct buyers. That's how I came out here, as a direct buyer. Buying straight off the farms. Sadly one of the bad things about that was my activities, along with hundreds of other fellows, kind of signaled the beginning of the end for the Omaha Stockyards. Which, in all honesty, I regret. I really do."
     Question: "Because…?"
     "Just a way of life vanished. And that's sad. When I think of the stockyards, I don't think of cattle and pens. I think of the rank and file and the parade of characters. The people, the human beings. And when I say characters, I mean characters…
     "I was probably one of the first cattle buyers – direct cattle buyer – direct cattle buyer that a lot of fellows out here ever saw. We could control the supply of cattle much better by having buyers in the area where the cattle are fed. It was a control inventory thing. A packer opened the door on a Monday morning. They knew that the dozen or so cattle buyers that they had had already purchased a 10 day supply of cattle. Usually was only about a seven day supply. We knew we had that in hand that we could – we the plant, the packers – could line up their amount of kill time needed because we already owned those cattle… We would have seven days to take them. We arranged that with the feeder. [We said,] 'I'll buy your cattle for this price, but I can't take them until (say today's Friday) I can't take them until next Tuesday.' And then the seller liked that too because he knew where he stood.
     "Whereas when they bought them off the Omaha Stockyards we might get 2,000 cattle and we might get 4,000. We might get 1,200…
     "The meatpackers are not – their largess is not very good. It was one of the things that soured me towards the end of my career as a country cattle buyer. We didn't have time for some guy with 28 cattle. I didn't like that part at all… They [his bosses] would say to me from their lofty perches in Greeley, Colorado, 'We can buy Joe Blow 10 miles or 50 miles north, [we] can buy 1,000 cattle for the same price and we can get them when we want them. So we don't have to mess with the So-and-so with 28 cattle or 82 cattle.' And I'd say, 'That's 100 percent his business. And say the guy up north with the thousand cattle, that could be 10 percent of his business.'
     "It was an ugly scene the last few years. I didn't like them. It just wasn't the way I was. From the early days in the stockyards, roughish fellows that they were, they were men of honor."

Tom Hoffman – The "Country" Market

   

Other Excerpts from Tom Hoffman’s Interview:

Consumer Demands
Changes in Cattle Industry
Working at the Stockyards
A Typical Sales Day
Going to the City