The We CareSM initiative was launched in 2008 as a joint effort of the National Pork Board, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and state organizations representing farmers. We Care is a proactive, multifaceted initiative to promote responsible practices in all areas of farming and is a commitment to continuously evaluate and improve our methods.
The effort has two fundamental messages: First, it strongly encourages farmers and employees to understand and consistently use best practices in raising animals. Second, We Care is a promise to the public that as an industry, America’s pig farmers are committed to responsible and ethical animal agriculture. We understand trust is something that must be earned. Through the We Care initiative, we hope to earn the public’s trust by making this industry better for all concerned — animals, farmers, food industry partners and consumers worldwide.
The pork industry already offers numerous programs, including Pork Quality Assurance® Plus (PQA Plus®) and Transport Quality Assurance® (TQA®), to support animal well-being and maintain a safe, high-quality supply of pork. The We Care initiative ties everything together to help the public view the pork industry as a self-regulated business that earns the trust of others.
Food Safety in Pork Production
Providing safe, wholesome food is our most important responsibility. Ensuring pork food safety is a complex undertaking that requires awareness of the role that everyone plays in the food chain. On the farm, many factors can affect the safety of pork, which is why today’s farming operations employ a wide variety of technology and techniques to minimize food safety threats. Modern practices such as raising pigs indoors and closely monitoring all aspects of biosecurity have vastly improved today’s pork in terms of safety and quality.
Pig farmers actively engage with the scientific community, governmental agencies and food chain partners to create credible programs and stringent policies that advance pork food safety. This collaboration has led to the development of forward-thinking programs that advance good farming practices to minimize food safety threats.
Farmers are eager to explain how pigs are raised and cared for. Few people have firsthand knowledge of what modern pig farming looks like. Now more than ever, we have access to many tools and resources to better care for our animals and meet consumer demand. These advancements have helped make the U.S. pork supply safer and more nutritious than at any time in our nation’s history. No matter the farm, the basic tenet of animal agriculture is the same: Good animal care is imperative to produce healthy food for consumers. For pig farmers, ensuring the well-being of animals is about more than taking care of business. It is part of America’s agricultural heritage. We are intent on preserving — and building upon — that legacy.
Ensure Practices To Protect Public Health
Checks and balances help ensure the integrity and security of the food supply at every step in the process. The U.S. food supply chain has earned a global reputation for the safety of its products, and governmental oversight is part of the reason for this success. Federal, state and local entities contribute to our nation’s food security safety net through regulation or inspection.
Safeguard Natural Resources
Sustainability on the farm is an ongoing commitment by pig farmers today. Farmers are committed, through ongoing environmental sustainability efforts, to safeguard natural resources for future generations. Over the last decade, the U.S. has played a leading role in advancing animal agriculture’s environmental and conservation efforts. Respect for the earth and its natural resources is part of our nation’s agricultural heritage — and America’s pork producers are dedicated to preserving that legacy.
Like its predecessor, the new award program focuses on on-farm proficiency in a variety of areas that directly affect sustainability, which includes areas such preservation of water, air and soil quality. However, the new program also is more holistic in that it uses the We Care ethical principles at its core, which focus on:
- Producing safe food
- Protecting and promoting animal well-being
- Ensuring practices to protect public health
- Safeguarding natural resources in all of our practices
- Providing a work environment that is safe and consistent with our other ethical principles
- Contributing to a better quality of life in our communities
Effective education and training of farm employees is key to earning the trust of our customers and the public. U.S. pig farmers have reputable, national training and certification programs designed to bring the latest knowledge and practices to the farm. The best example of a widely adopted certification model is Pork Quality Assurance® Plus (PQA Plus®), a comprehensive food safety and animal well-being program that is second to none in animal agriculture. As a demonstration of the Pork Checkoff’s commitment to continuous improvement, PQA Plus provides farmers and their employees with the right resources and proper knowledge to improve how they farm. The program was modeled after the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) programs used by food manufacturers to ensure the safety of food products but was customized for on-farm use. PQA Plus has expanded and improved over the years based on scientific advancements and recommendations of technology and animal agriculture experts.
Transport Quality Assurance® (TQA®) is a program that helps pig transporters, producers and handlers understand how to handle, move and transport pigs as well as potential impacts on pig well-being and pork quality. Anyone who handles pigs, transports pigs or sets protocols for handling pigs, can influence animal well-being and pork quality.
Animals are often moved and handled for purposes of:
- Routine daily care
- Treatment of an illness or injury
- Relocation to another production phase and location/site
- Sale or processing
As pig farming is mainly a family-oriented business, it has long been a practice to involve children in the farm and task them with specific responsibilities. In 2003, a youth version of the PQA Plus program was launched. The Youth PQA Plus® program mirrors the content of the adult program but presents it in a format more conducive to a younger audience.
The commitment to support communities is stronger today than ever. Pig farmers are working hard to build trust and good relationships in communities around the country.
Farmers understand the important role their businesses play in the lives of employees, customers and the communities in which they live and work. They honor their obligation to respect and support communities by:
- Recognizing that being welcomed and appreciated by the community is a privilege that must be earned and maintained
- Acknowledging that farming practices can affect the trust the community has in pork production and their operations
- Operating in a manner that protects the environment and public health
- Playing an active role in helping to build a strong community
- Acknowledging community concerns and addressing them in an honest and sincere manner