Jennifer Tirey, Executive Director, Illinois Pork Producers Association and a member of the Checkoff’s International Marketing Committee

As I traveled to Dallas, Texas for the 22nd Annual World Meat Congress, I  didn’t have a keen sense of what to expect. My standard barometer for measuring a successful event is when I can walk away having absorbed three to four new concepts that can be applied to improving how our industry promotes pork and develops targeted awareness of our products.

So, with that in mind, here are three of my key takeaways from the World Meat Congress last week.

First, digital marketing is growing across the globe. The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), President and CEO, Dan Halstrom, presented some noteworthy stats. In 2014, there were 2.5 billion internet users around the world and in just four years, that number has increased to over 4 billion. Not only is this increase notable, but so is the breakdown of that social media usage. Specifically, in Mexico, Facebook is king as they have seen a 21percent increase in users in that country, while in Korea it is a combination of Facebook and YouTube that has accounted for a 57 percent increases in social media usage. Knowing which platforms generate the most traffic allows for our strategic partners, like USMEF to stretch our dollars in targeted markets as it costs a mere 25 cents to reach 1,000 potential consumers with Facebook compared to $32 using traditional media. As the demand to move US pork increases, digital marketing will allow us to reach more potential consumers at an unprecedented rate of return.

Second, partnerships are critical to trade. The trade relationships that U.S. pork has developed and continues to build will keep us moving in a positive direction. Without the joint marketing efforts of pork, beef, corn, soybeans and other allied industry partners we are a very small fish in an extremely large pond. Cross promotion and a shared interest in strengthening U.S. agricultural exports is how we will continue to build trust in our pork products and work together to feed an ever-growing world population.

Lastly, that concept of feeding a growing population was echoed throughout the week.  During the address by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue,  he emphatically stated: “We need to focus less on political philosophy and more on protecting the people and the consumers. We can feed everyone by free and open trade. Trade is vital to feeding people across the world.”

It was an exciting week and certainly hard to characterize and distill so many encouraging and insightful messages down into three-but I think that last message resonated with me the most. We, at the end of the day, need to feed more people not just here in the U.S., but around the world. I’m excited for the opportunity to do so.