By Jan Archer, At-Large Producer; National Pork Board and International Marketing Committee Member
As our National Pork Board (NPB) International Marketing Committee Chair Bill Luckey said in his last blog, the “meat” of the upcoming World Meat Congress (WMC)—taking place in Dallas May 30–June 1 —are the conversations we’re going to have with important international contacts and stakeholders.
We have so much to be proud of in the pork industry, and it will be hard to narrow it down to just a few key points for quick conversations—but here’s my best attempt at a “top 5” list of things I want to be sure I talk about:
- The We Care® initiative: We launched this proactive, multifaceted initiative in 2008 as a joint effort of the National Pork Board, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and state organizations representing farmers. The effort was proactive back then, but now—ten years later—the possibilities for We Care and international marketing are endless. As our international consumers want greater visibility and traceability into their pork products, we have the opportunity to tell our responsible production story in a meaningful, rigorous way: providing that farm-to-fork transparency.
- Responsible Production: I am eager to talk to WMC attendees about our Pork Board mantra: “People, Pigs, Planet.” That phrase is something that embodies the spirit of continuous improvement alive in all of our farms here in the U.S. It is also something that gives us a significant competitive edge—our ability to demonstrate commitment and success to food safety and public health, animal care, employee safety, community engagement and environmental stewardship.
- Average U.S. Farm Size: I know we will get questions about how big farms are in the United States. I’ll be ready to rattle off the fact that 87 percent (or more) of the pork in the U.S. comes from farms with 2,000 or more head of pigs. Certainly, the trend in our industry—and across agriculture—has been larger pig farms and an increased specialization in a single phase of pork production. What does that mean? It means efficiency, traceability and greater accountability to demonstrating improvement against our core values discussed above.
- Food Safety: Specialization in a single phase of pork production, advancements in plant technology, and biosecurity has also led to huge advancements in food safety. We’re doing our part to safeguard food safety from farm to fork, but I’m also eager to tell folks about our preparedness for when things go wrong. Just a few weeks ago, the International Marketing staff got together with science and technology staff from the National Pork Producers Council and U.S. Meat Export Federation to update our crisis plan for a foreign animal disease outbreak. While we have the safest farms—and pork products—in the world, we also are ready to help our foreign customers weather the storm in the event of a food safety or disease-related crisis. That preparation makes us a better export partner and strengthens relationships.
- The Future of U.S. Pork Exports: Last, but certainly not least, I’m ready to share with WMC attendees the optimism I have about the future of our industry and U.S. pork exports. With surging pork production and the investment of the Checkoff into international marketing efforts, I have no doubt that we’re going to keep growing our export prowess and find new homes for U.S. pork. Not only do we have a superior product, but we’re ready to turn these markets into partners by working with them to build demand for U.S. pork. And, our industry stands ready to meet that demand by providing increased transparency, traceability and product innovation. It’s an exciting time and, we’re ready to build on our record 2017.