Preface: This was to be my last column, but the inimitableness of the Keppy name and the area of the country from whence it came was more than my pen could resist.
Glen Keppy (Roy Keppy’s son) called me a while back to inquire more about his dads’ involvement in the nickel (5¢) check-off As you will find out from reading this column, Roy wasn’t just involved, he was the check-off and everything for which it stood.
If there is genuinely a “Hog Heaven,” then the counties of Scott in Iowa and Henry in Illinois would have to be included. The finest hogs and even finer people reside in those counties. If there are “Pennies from Heaven” they rained upon the earth in the form of nickels, for which the name KEPPY — SCOTT and HENRY will go down in the history of the pork industry as being attributed to the nickel (5¢) check-off and the NPPC.
The crusade for these causes was led by Roy Keppy and his associates in those counties for which Oscar Mayer & Co was a major player. As the representative of Oscar Mayer, it was my role to support, encourage, and help implement this initiative within the industry.
Because of this involvement, I witnessed the very inception of this monumental contribution to the pork industry and was there walking side by side with Roy Keppy every step of the way.
No man has been more influential in the Pork Industry than Roy Keppy, for which the nickel check-off is a tribute to his legacy, as it went on to fuel what is now the National Pork Producers Council. It was the mid-sixties, the infancy of the National Pork Producers nickel check-off and the benefits were already beginning to be felt, benefits that didn’t go unnoticed.
Just as Roy Keppy, the founding father of the check-off had predicted, people everywhere were starting to notice. Pork was beginning to take on a new image. No longer was it playing second-fiddle to beef.
To make his point, Roy and several other dignitaries of the Iowa Pork Producers Association dined out at the prestigious Plantation restaurant in Moline, IL, and preceded to ask the waitress what she would recommend for dinner. Her response was that of suggesting the featured entree of succulent “thick-cut center-cut” pork chops.
This was a first and didn’t go unnoticed by the distinguished pork promoters. Needless to say, all were grateful and appreciative of the recommendation, leaving there highly satisfied and gratuities of unmeasurable amounts.
This was so pleasant and unusual that the gratitude didn’t stop there. It just so happened that the Iowa State Pork Producers Association was meeting at the Blackhawk Hotel in Davenport, Iowa, just across the river from where we had dinner.
To recognize and honor the Plantation Restaurant waitress, we arranged for a taxi to pick her up the next day and escort her to a noon luncheon of the IPPA — for which she was given center stage and royal treatment. She was seated at the head table, presented with a beautiful corsage, and ceremonially introduced to an ecstatic crowd of pork producers.
Today, featured pork on the menu is the norm, all because of that original nickel pork check-off that now supports the National Pork Producers Association – and because of a man that had a vision for the pork industry that never before had been seen.
Roy Keppy not only had a vision but the courage to make it happen!
It was in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (I think) where a group of Iowa Pork industry leaders gathered to discuss the nickel check-off. This included people that had the wherewithal to make it happen, including such memorable leaders as Rolland (Pig) Paul, a major contributor to what is now known as the National Pork Producers Council. At the time he was Executive Director of the Iowa Pork Producers Association.
After meeting for the umpteenth time to address this subject, Roy finally slammed his fist on the table, pulled out his checkbook, wrote out a check for the amount of $5,000 and said, “It starts with me right now — it ’s time for less talk and more action!”
You could have heard a pin drop, as one by one around this huge conference table, each took out their checkbook. This was the beginning of the nickel check-off and the NPPC.
Roy was the kind of man that put his money where his mouth was, dedicating his life to the pork industry.
His impact knew no barriers, and he wasn’t bashful about getting his point across. No one was immune to the wrath of his comments. Believe me, I experienced this first hand as he came barging into my office with a scale-ticket (invoice for payment of hogs) noting that the nickel check-off had not been acknowledged.
After all, we had been through together and knew that I was responsible for implementing the program at Oscar Mayer & Co., it came as no surprise that he was upset.
You can be assured that Oscar Mayer & Co. never reneged on its checkoff commitment again, nor did any other company that participated in the program. Voluntarily to compulsory, the check-off has become the financial backbone of one of the most highly acclaimed promotional programs in the meat industry.
The Pork Industry owes a debt of gratitude to the legendary Roy Keppy.