For decades, the U.S. pork industry has recognized the importance of responsible production practices. That’s especially important in a changing marketplace. During 2018, the Pork Checkoff created a We Care task force to build on that success. National Pork Board Assistant Vice President of Sustainability Brett Kaysen is featured in this edition of Pork Pod with an update on this task force and the plans for the future. In addition, the National Pork Board, United Soybean Board and National Corn Growers Association signed a memorandum of understanding in November to cooperate on sustainability. That is part of this We Care strategy that is highlighted in this podcast.
Brett Kaysen, Assistant Vice President of Sustainability, National Pork Board
Don Wick: 00:15 From the Pork Checkoff in Des Moines Iowa, it’s Pork Pod. Pork Pod, a look at the hot topics in today’s pork industry. The Pork Checkoff is working for you through various forms of research, promotion, and consumer information projects. I’m Don Wick speaking on behalf of the Pork Checkoff, and today our guest is Brett Kaysen, assistant vice president of sustainability for the National Pork Board. And certainly the Pork Checkoff’s We Care initiative has been around for some time. The Pork Checkoff is taking a fresh look at that We Care initiative. Brett, bring us up to speed. What’s happening?
Brett Kaysen: 00:34 Yes, I had the honor to be able to lead the We Care task force starting back in March. And the whole intention and strategy of the task force getting together was to provide strategic, futuristic recommendations relative to sustainability work. And it should be done on behalf of our producers in which we serve and collaboration with our sister organization, the National Pork Producers Council.
Don Wick: 00:56 So really a big picture look?
Brett Kaysen: 00:59 Yeah, very, very big picture look. Overall, came up with three specific strategies. And to your point earlier in talking about the decade of success we’ve had with We Care, and just understanding that our commitment is more important than ever as we move forward.
Don Wick: 01:15 So you mentioned three key strategy areas. What would they be, Brett?
Brett Kaysen: 01:20 Yeah, so essentially the strategy has been set, that first and foremost, we need to take credit for all the good work we’ve already done, and that comes in the form of sharing our story. Secondly, the producers recommended and the board has approved that we need to continue as producers to demonstrate continuous improvement over time. And part of that is demonstrating that in real-time, and hence, then sharing that story of improvement. And then finally, of course We Care is built on six ethical principles and we take those principles, we add them to the outstanding practices in which pig farmers are doing everyday on the farm and that leads to proof points of continuous improvement. And we believe that if we have those principles, the practices, and the proof in place, that ultimately will equal public trust and help grow demand for our product.
Don Wick: 02:08 And late in 2018, the Pork Checkoff signed a memorandum of understanding with the United Soybean Board, National Corn Growers Association. Is that part of this effort, Brett?
Brett Kaysen: 02:18 It absolutely is. It’s funny that you asked that question. I’m on my way back from St Louis, working back to Des Moines, and actually had a robust meeting this morning at the National Corn Growers Association’s office with the United Soybean Board as well. So the three thought leaders and sustainable sustainability leaders from those three organizations spent four hours together charting our course of what that MOU will look like as we move into 2019.
Don Wick: 02:43 So where do we go from here? What’s the next step?
Brett Kaysen: 02:48 Next step is this, and I would just say the call-to-action for producers of how they can plug into this We Care commitment, that’s more important, or as important now as it ever been, is that you, as producers, out there can share your story. There’s all of you are doing great work, whether it be animal well-being or the impact you’re having in your communities or all the great environmental work you’re doing on farm. And I would say the immediate call-to-action is feel free to share your story. How you do that is your choice! And you can do that through social media, your web pages, working within your neighbors or open houses. And so that would be my ask of producers today and then as it comes to building these proof points and demonstrating continuous improvement over time, know that your staff at the National Pork Board is working on your behalf to work with the brands and the channel marketing folks that we call on every day, and the consumers, to help grow the demand for the product that you folks produce each day. Minimize the risks that are out there and essentially, you know, grow demand for not only pig farming across the US, but also pork as a food.
Don Wick: 03:55 Certainly, we do this to build trust with the consumer, the general public. Do you have a starting point? Do we know where we stand today and what kind of, where do we go from here for continuous improvement?
Brett Kaysen: 04:07 That’s a great question. And we do a lot of message testing and we have a lot of different strategies at the National Pork Board that we put in place to find a way to measure where we stand today with trust amongst the public. A phrase we like to use in domestic marketing is that “we’re data heavy and assumption light”. And so some of our partnerships, such as our partnership with Google, has helped us understand what the general public thinks about not only pork as a food, but also the production practices in place. And so the initial data says, listen, the general consumer trusts the American farmer. The family farmer’s story plays well in multiple forums and that we need to leverage those producers in which we serve everyday more in public venues because that’s really who consumers want to hear from. They trust the farmer more than they trust university research. They trust farmers way more than they do in terms of marketing campaigns and the government. So we’re in a good spot with our farmers today and their trust of those. But we have to continue to highlight those producers in public forums of great magnitude to make sure we can share this story more widely.
Don Wick: 05:16 Brett, if producers want more information or or really get some of those, those talking points we mentioned, where did they go from here?
Brett Kaysen: 05:25 I would drive them to the porkcares.org or pork.org and that they can find the majority of the information and where we’re working at with this We Care commitment in our sustainability efforts. And then of course, always feel free to reach out to me, Brett Kaysen, at the Pork Board at any time.
Don Wick: 05:43 Brett Kaysen from the National Pork Board. Thank you for listening to this edition of Pork Pod. For more information on this topic or the Pork Checkoff itself, visit pork.org.