by Jan Jorgensen

From educating youth about proper animal care to tackling “what-if” scenarios of a foreign animal disease outbreak, Pork Checkoff-funded programs and initiatives were on full display at World Pork Expo, which was held June 7-9 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa.

The show rings were busier than ever, including 1,349 junior exhibitors with 2,615 pigs spanning 32 states. The Pork Checkoff hosted a Youth for the Quality Care of Animals (YQCA) program, offering the first opportunity for youth to become certified. The National Pork Board was a contributing partner in the development of the YQCA program, which sets quality standards for all livestock exhibitors.

Bryleigh Betters, Abernathy, Texas, showed the champion farm-bred-and-owned Chester White. Her father, Todd Betters, said the family has shown pigs at Expo for three years as a “fun family activity that also teaches kids life lessons.”

Lessons of another sort took place at the Pork Checkoff’s tent, where Expo attendees could earn their “Passport to Pork” by sampling pork variety meat dishes, such as Cuban-style jowl bacon and Asian-spice seasoned tongue.
“While not popular domestically, variety meats play a key role in overall U.S. pork exports,” said Checkoff consultant Benjy Mikel, who was on hand to grill the unique cuts. “We promote variety meat exports to add value to U.S. producers.”

Producers learned about export initiatives and other programs at both the Pork Checkoff booth and through the annual PORK Academy. Several Operation Main Street training sessions also were held to train producers and others in sharing pork’s story in their communities and with key audiences, such as dietitians.

The annual World Pork Expo also allows the Checkoff to reach well beyond Des Moines through news conferences and media interviews that articulate how our industry is undergoing continuous improvement. National Pork Board CEO Bill Even and newly elected President Terry O’Neel recapped the role we all play in food safety and meeting the world’s growing demand for pork.

All in all, Expo served up a full menu of Checkoff activities and events to help fulfill its ongoing mission of research, education and promotion. See you in 2018!