PORK Perspectives: A Minute with Zoetis' Robbie Moody

( Robbie Moody )

PORK Perspectives is a recurring column that provides business and leadership strategy tips from some of the pork industry’s leaders, sharing insights on their business plans and service to the industry. 

Working on today but keeping an eye on tomorrow. For Robbie Moody, head of U.S. pork marketing and business operations at Zoetis, the beauty of his role in marketing is both the blessing and the curse of looking ahead and seeing where the company needs to go and what will best help their customers as they bring new products into the marketplace. But he says it’s easy to fall into the tyranny of the now – making sure they get enough product to sell that day, figuring out how quickly they will get it out, and so on. 

“Balancing the now with the tomorrow is a good way to sum up what my team does day-in, day-out,” Moody says. “Some days we can really think strategically and focus on tomorrow. Other days, we’re putting out fires.”

For the past 15 years, he’s worked across almost all protein sectors, gaining a unique perspective from the vertically integrated poultry industry to the independent cow-calf industry. In a recent interview, Moody shared his leadership philosophy, his thoughts on the animal health industry and what drives him to succeed each day.

Q. Tell me about your business.
Zoetis, in its simplest form, is the leading global animal health company. We serve customers all over the world in all aspects of animal health, including aquaculture, companion animal, cattle, equine, poultry, pork, sheep, rabbits and goats. We are diversified in our portfolio to support animals around the world. 

Q. How does your team fit into Zoetis?
My team and I set the strategic direction of the U.S. pork business. We collaborate with many people to develop strategies and execute those strategies across all aspects of business, whether it’s our manufacturing group, sales org or technical team. We make sure our teams are aligned to deliver on strategies to meet our customers’ needs.

Q. How does Zoetis help and work with its customers? 
As we’ve evolved from Pfizer Animal Health to Zoetis, our org has changed from being part of a pharmaceutical company with a pharmaceutical mindset to becoming an animal health company focused on collaborating with customers across the continuum of care. Traditionally, we produce vaccines and antibiotics that help keep animals healthy. Today, we’re focused on working around four pillars, including how to better predict, prevent, detect and treat disease. 

We are working hard to get way out in front to better understand how we can better predict disease. For example, are there ways to identify certain diseases in animals based on genetic makeup? We’re looking at the role of robotics and automation and how that might help our customers better manage labor challenges. Ultimately, how do we partner with our customers in food production from farm to fork? It’s truly a humbling opportunity to be a part of that endeavor and something we take very seriously. We’re trying to get outside of the box thinking about what an animal health does and aligning ourselves with what’s important to our customers.

Q. What is your business philosophy?
For me, it boils down to two things. One, be change-agile, especially in today’s times. Two, grow and develop people, and ensure your customers are successful. If we take that mindset, we will be successful in reaching that goal.  

Q. How has the company evolved? 
I think our mindset has shifted as Zoetis spun out of Pfizer six years ago when Pfizer decided animal health would be more valuable outside of Pfizer. In the early years of Zoetis, we had to spend a lot of time building out what we wanted the brand to mean and ensuring we had the infrastructure to support our business . We had to ask hard questions about our strengths and weaknesses. During that time, we were able to find ourselves. Today we are pushing decisionmaking down closer to the customer level. Like other big pharmaceutical companies, we had multiple layers. Zoetis streamlined operations to be closer to the customer. The mindset change was awesome – we wake up every day thinking about animal health. And it’s not that we didn’t before, but now the whole company is dedicated to animal health. Our team takes great pride in that mindset we’ve embraced. 

Q. What’s the best piece of business advice you could give to someone just getting started?
Take full responsibility for your career and personal development. Raise your hand to do things. Be open to the concept of a career lattice versus a career ladder. I think too many times we think moving up is the goal, but I think the best opportunities and experiences I’ve gained were by moving sideways into another business or working in a different area taking on a different project. Look at the totality of the experiences you’ve gained and how they will help you grow instead of staying locked on and just moving up a level within the org.

Q. How is the field of animal health changing? 
One of the biggest changes and potential threats I’ve seen is the role of consumer opinion impacting how animal health companies operate and what products are being used on livestock. Five years ago, if you would have told me I’d see 50% of the poultry business become antibiotic-free, I wouldn’t have believed it. I am seeing more emphasis on disease prevention versus treatment. More farmers are embracing innovation now and we’ve seen a lot of consolidation. 

Q. How is ASF affecting your business?
We have a dedicated group monitoring and working toward solutions for emerging, infectious diseases. That’s unique that we have a group focused on that. We have people waking up and focusing on this disease. Outside of that, it takes time. It’s a really tough disease to develop a vaccine for. I hope it’s not 10 to 20 years away like we’ve heard from some industry experts. Because of that specialty within our research and development group, I think we are as prepared as anybody to help come up with a solution.

Moody and team


Q. What do you enjoy most about your job?
That’s easy – it’s the people. Whether it’s interacting with my immediate team and colleagues or interacting with our customers, that’s what I enjoy the most. My why is the people. That’s why I do what I do.

Q. If you knew then what you know now about your career, what would you have done differently?
Some days I’d say yes, but in general, I don’t know if I would. I’ve had lots of different experiences that have grown me into the person I am. I’ve really enjoyed my career and have worked hard to navigate it and create different experiences within it. Maybe I would have bought a lottery ticket?

Q. Who inspired you?
My major professor in graduate school challenged me in a way that inspired me in multiple aspects of my life. I began to understand the saying, “to much is given, much is expected.” It changed my thought process. I began to take more accountability for what I did and how I do things. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right. This has stood with me throughout my career – to live up to that aspect of doing your best every time.
In addition, my parents have been a major inspiration and I get to work with some great people who bring things to the table that challenge and grow me. I’m inspired by our customers who feed people every day. I want to do my best to support them. And day-in and day-out, I’m inspired to show my son what being a good, responsible person looks like. 

Q. What concerns do you have about the swine industry now?
Emerging infectious diseases are my greatest concern in the swine industry now. Obviously the big one today is African swine fever (ASF), but we can’t forget about foot-and-mouth disease, classic swine fever. These emerging diseases concern me the most because of how devastating these diseases would be to the pork industry. Recovery would take a long time. 

I’m also concerned about the adoption of technology. The swine industry needs to be more open to evaluate technology and be willing to embrace it. This is where the role of the retailer and consumer come in to decide what they will deem as acceptable technology and the role the packer will play as the middle man. Labor remains an issue as well – where will we find the skilled people to be the caregivers of pigs and work in the plants so we can produce, process and get more pigs to market?

Q. What are the greatest opportunities in the swine industry now? 
In the short-term, there’s great opportunity to export more pork and be more profitable. I think technology is also an opportunity, not just a concern. For example, can we get to the point where we have disease-resistant pigs? New technology that is better performance-wise, greener technologies that use different technology help promote the animal to grow more towards optimal performance levels.
I think the industry has a great opportunity to own its own story as it pertains to many factors of raising and caring for pigs. We need to be more transparent with consumers and retailers to educate them on what really happens. Don’t let your story be told for you. We know farmers have high credibility with consumers. Research backs that up. There's an opportunity to really tell a great story about family farms and the role veterinarians play in keeping animals safe and keeping your food safe that needs to be seized on in some way.

Q. What will the business look like 20 years from now?
The industry will be more consolidated. I think you’ll see trends of vertical integration really drive forward. Look at what Costco is doing, owning its own processing plant and chicken farm to control that supply chain from end to end. It’s a unique, interesting model to follow, and that changes fundamentally how we operate as well. It’s a trend we have to watch. 

Within animal health, I think we’ll see more technology, such as managing disease through genetics. I think the whole gut microbiome technologies and understanding how the performance of animals is dictated by the gut microbiome and understanding how to manage both the good and bad bacteria. Data management and predictive analytics will be huge, too. This may be the biggest area we see change over time. I think we’ll also see more robotics and automation used in raising and caring for animals as we get more challenged to have skilled and reliable labor. 

Opinions expressed in this column are the opinions of Robbie Moody and do not represent the opinions of Farm Journal's PORK. Watch for future columns featuring advice and insights from more of the industry's largest suppliers.

More PORK Perspectives:

PORK Perspectives: A Minute with Topigs Norsvin’s John Eggert

PORK Perspectives: Genus PIC’s Bill Christianson