By Amanda Crow, 2018 Communications intern
Over the past three years, the National Pork Board, along with its partners, has taken a critical step in building trust through on-farm tours for registered dietitians.
“These eye-opening experiences help dietitians learn the complete process of pork production, from farm to fork,” said Adria Huseth, a registered dietitian herself and manager of nutrition communications and research for the Pork Checkoff.
This year, 25 registered dietitians toured farms, prepared new pork recipes and made connections with each other in Oklahoma, North Carolina and Iowa.
“The tours give the dietitians a firsthand look at how pigs are raised today so they can answer their clients’ questions about food production and about the health benefits of including pork in their diets,” Huseth said.
For registered dietitians attending a tour in North Carolina in June, the experience helped dispel misinformation they may have held.
“When I was invited on the tour, I knew I had to go,” said Emily Holdorf, a registered dietitian from Charlotte, North Carolina, who toured a Smithfield sow farm. “I did not know a lot about pig farming but I’ve heard a lot of myths.”
She added, “I firmly believe, that as a dietitian, one of my primary responsibilities is to bridge the gap between the farmers, the food industry and the consumer.”
The Pork Board partners with state pork associations, host farms and the National Pork Producers Council to make the tours a success. This year, Oklahoma Pork Council, the North Carolina Pork Council and the Iowa Pork Producers Association helped bring dietitians to their respective states.
In May, Hanor Farms and the Oklahoma Pork Council hosted influential dietitians during a three-day tour.
“The partnership was extremely valuable, not only from a state pork association perspective, but also from our state’s entire pork industry,” said Roy Lee Lindsey, CEO of the Oklahoma Pork Council. “We showed influential dietitians what happens on farms across our state daily.”
In July, Iowa Select Farms partnered with the Iowa Pork Producers Association and national organizations to host influencers on one of its farms.
“The tours offer a chance to dispel myths about pig farming,” said Jen Sorenson, communications director for Iowa Select Farms. “We are proud of what we do on our farms and want to continue to tell that story.”
Moving the Needle
Survey results show that the tours change how the dietitians view pig farming largely through interaction with farmers, veterinarians, chefs and other dietitians.
“During the tours, participants ask tough questions about antibiotic use, sustainability, animal welfare and other topics,” Huseth said. “Getting the facts helps alleviate any concerns many had prior to the tours.”
The numbers back this up, with 58 percent of 2018 attendees viewing livestock farming extremely or very favorable pre-tour and 86 percent post-tour. Also, 13 percent of dietitians were confident in the humane treatment of farm animals before the tour, increasing to 48 percent post-tour.
Where to Go for Answers
Perhaps one of the most dramatic results from the pre- and post-survey is that now 95 percent of registered dietitians know where they can find information about pig farming, up from only 17 percent from the pre-survey.
“The tours help us build relationships with these influencers, earning the Pork Checkoff the role of a trusted source of pork information,” Huseth said. “Tour participants continue to reach out when they have questions about pork production or the nutrient profile of pork.”
“Most attendees share their experiences on social media, through blog posts or even by hosting a television segment on the local news,” Huseth said. “This provides a greater return to producers.”
The tour Holdorf attended was time well spent.
“It was a whirlwind experience, but a great learning experience,” she said. “Not only did I connect with amazing dietitians, but I can now confidently support pig farming, the safety and quality of the pork I’m buying, and all the benefits it brings to our food industry and local North Carolina economy.”