Christmas came early for Ohio State students this year with the December arrival of a bacon vending machine on campus. Students could fuel up on ready-to-eat bacon strips or bacon bits for study breaks during finals thanks to the Ohio Pork Council’s partnership with the Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

The bacon snacks, donated by Hormel Foods, Sugardale Foods, and Smithfield Foods, were instant hits and also quickly captured the nation’s attention. From social media posts to coverage by Fox News, the Today Show, USA Today, the New York Times and other media outlets, people were talking about on-the-go bacon and the pig farmers who produced it. Checkoff media tracking showed that in less than a week, there were 860 news articles and more than 5,500 social mentions about the vending machine.

“We were surprised at how quickly this story went viral,” said Ohio Pork’s Meghann Winters. “Besides providing tasty snacks, the bacon vending machine provided a unique, fun way to promote pork and educate consumers about producers’ commitment to raising pigs following the We CareSM ethical principles.”

That kind of ingenuity has long been a hallmark of how the pork industry has re-imagined and evolved its efforts to connect with consumers and promote pork. As we move into the new year, the groundwork is set for the trend to continue. This issue highlights some of the new ways the Pork Checkoff is reaching out, including teaming with YouTube stars to promote pork in new ways and expanding pork’s presence in convenience stores, an area full of potential.

The producer-to-consumer link also is evolving and growing stronger through the Pork Checkoff’s #RealPigFarming social media outreach and Operation Main Street presentations to new groups. Pat Bane, featured on the cover, is the 2018 America’s Pig Farmer of the YearSM. He encourages all producers to “get out of their comfort zone” and into the growth zone to share their farm stories.

Here’s to another exciting year for the pork industry – one filled with new opportunities, continued successes and plenty of bacon.

– Jan Jorgensen, Editor