A Focus on Continuous Improvement

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With the celebration of Climate Week, Brett Kaysen from the Pork Checkoff highlights the role of pig farmers with the issues of sustainability and the environment. Kaysen, who is the Pork Checkoff’s assistant vice president of sustainability, says Climate Week is an opportunity to tell the story of pig farming.


Don Wick


Brett Kaysen, Assistant Vice President of Sustainability, National Pork Board




Don Wick: 00:00 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, who is the assistant vice president of sustainability with the National Pork Board. And Brett, we’ve seen this recognition of Climate Week. It brings to mind really the impact our pig farmers are having on the environment and the whole issue of sustainability.

Brett Kaysen: 00:36 Yeah. When you think about pig farmers, right, and the great work they’ve done, one of the first places I direct everyone’s attention is a recent study that the University of Arkansas did, a life-cycle analysis for every pound of pork that’s raised in the US. And was determined if you look at the data from 1960 to 2015, that pig farmers have reduced their land use by 76%, their water use by 25%, their energy use by 7%, which then turns into a 7.7% reduction in carbon footprint. So when you think of those numbers and the progress that pig farmers have made in land, water and energy use in the last 50 years, that’s pretty impressive data. And the thing that really impresses me about them is as I talk to producers each and every day, and farmers are like, well, how do we even get better next year? And that’s really the mentality in which pig farmers, the US approach their daily lives.

Don Wick: 01:32 We’re in that focus of continuous improvement. Are there things that that can be done to continue to make advancements?

Brett Kaysen: 01:39 Absolutely. Absolutely. There’s more that can be done. And I think that really comes in the form of innovative technologies. And you think about today, Don, you know, the self-steering tractors and the precision agriculture in which we plant and harvest, you know, feedstuffs. And you think about, you know, from pig farmers, the way they’ve evolved and how they actually take nutrients from the pig in the form of manure and now put it into the soil at the exact spot that the plant needs it. But they’re thinking even further and faster now. And they’re thinking about, well, how do we even reduce our energy use in the barn more so? What can we do in the form of insulation and more LED lighting? And what can we do in the form of making pigs more feed efficient? Because if you make a pig more efficient in terms of their feedstuff intake and their protein output, you know, that really demonstrates sustainability over the long-term. And so the thing that I think is exciting, you know, just like this week, we had pig farmers in Indianapolis at an innovation technology summit talking about these things and say, how can we use technology and innovation to be better and last and make the planet earth have a greater good impact for everyone. So, not everybody thinks that way, Don. But it’s fun to be around a group of pig farmers that do.

Don Wick: 03:00 Yeah, there’s no doubt. Obviously that non-farm audience, non-agriculture audience, how do you share that message so they understand what kind of things are being done in the swine industry?

Brett Kaysen: 03:12 First and foremost, when you think about the greater consumer that you know, eats, cooks, appreciates pork, digitally, you know, these consumers hold a supercomputer in their hand every day and they’re getting inundated with knowledge every day, some actual and factual and some not. And they have to filter through that. And so I’d say first it’s a digital-first approach. And it’s then talking to the general consumer about all the good things pig farmers are doing on-farm, but also how they can feel good and be passionate about eating pork and celebrate that. So that’s first and foremost. Now I will also tell you where we have a large impact and something that I thoroughly enjoy doing each and every day is working with what we call our channel partners. And so I talked about channel partners as you know, food retailers, grocers, and restaurant owners and say, okay, you’re buying pork product, you’re serving pork product, you’re selling pork product.

Brett Kaysen: 04:16 Let me tell you what the pig farmers are doing on the live side to make sure that we ensure food safety and sustainability in that product that you’re buying and then selling to your eaters. And a lot of that, Don, comes down to, I like to say, my boots under their table. Actually going to the corporate executive suites and visiting with their senior leadership team about all the great practices we have in place as pig farming and how that creates this celebration of pork as a food. So it’s a digital-first mentality with consumers. Should that supercomputer called their cell phone in their hand and then our channel partners physically being face to face with them and having some robust dialogue.

Don Wick: 04:56 So the Checkoff has a role in the, in the whole focus of sustainability, Brett?

Brett Kaysen: 05:01 Each and every day, each and every day. And you think about our mission as National Pork Board is research, education and promotion. That’s what we are tasked to do each and every day. So our research today and moving forward will have a really big focus on this whole build trust around utilizing natural resources, right? And our education, in terms of all the people that are eaters or buyers of pork. You know, as good as anyone that people want to know where their food comes from. And so let’s educate them about that and create that transparency model. And then it’s about promotion. You know, we owe it on behalf of the folks that pay the Checkoff to promote and celebrate the great product that they produce each and every day. So obviously play a role with our three-legged stool mission in the form of sustainability.

Don Wick: 05:50 So for farmers who want more information, where can they go?

Brett Kaysen: 05:54 I would send them to two websites, porkcares.org and pork.org, and so porkcares.org and pork.org, will have a lot of information around this space.

Don Wick: 06:04 Brett Kaysen from the Pork Checkoff. Thank you for listening to this edition of pork pod. For more information on this topic or the Pork Checkoff itself, visit pork.org.