The World Meat Congress is a biennial gathering of everyone from farmers and exporters/buyers to economists and meat scientists from around the world focusing on key issues affecting the meat and livestock sector. This year’s event, held May 30 to June 1 in Dallas, Texas, brought together more than 700 of the world’s meat industry thought leaders. Centered around the theme “Trusting in Trade,” discussions addressed global trade and market access, technology innovation, consumer trends and animal husbandry. They’re all critical components of raising healthy, affordable and safe pork for the world.
I attended the 2018 World Meat Congress for the first time. I take the Christensen Farms mission – to responsibly raise “high-quality pork for the noble purpose of providing food to a growing world” – very seriously and know it is the foundation of success for all U.S. pig farmers. That was the viewpoint I shared and was shared with me at the World Meat Congress. Here are a few key takeaways from the global meeting that show the important role pig farmers play across the globe.
Trade was a major topic throughout the entire conference given recent announcements regarding tariffs, particularly with Mexico. Technology innovation, primarily as it pertains to animal health and genetics, came up in many of the presentations. There was a fair amount of information around emerging consumer trends and how they are shifting and accelerating food consumption and innovation. As part of the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) International Marketing Committee, we spent time getting more acclimated to USMEF’s role in supporting greater pork export demand and how we can better guide their efforts as our strategic partner.
While we need to stay informed and vocal about issues like animal health, labor and technology, it’s important to focus our energy on the things we can control. With trade, we can grow our humanitarian efforts to provide a basic need – food — for more people by gaining market access, particularly in developing countries, while at the same time protect and grow existing markets That’s where the greatest need is, and where we, as pig farmers, can have the biggest impact on feeding the world. And, those emerging markets are exactly where the National Pork Board and its strategic partners are focusing their international marketing efforts.
What I Learned
We have to stay the course on what we do best – raising healthy, affordable, safe pork for worldwide consumption. Pig farmers have been and are so focused on improving their businesses, and sometimes, we need to continue to challenge ourselves to be part of conversations on topics like gene editing, antibiotic use or other emerging consumer-facing issues. In a world that is moving at such a rapid pace today, we can no longer allow others to speak for us.
That process starts with the people around us. How do we approach people who don’t know what we do? Do we enter into conversations trying to change views and perceptions, or with scientific research and data? Or, do we enter those discussions in a lighter, more conversational way of sharing information and keeping a dialog going? Each of these approaches are important to think about and consider. As human beings, I think our natural inclination is to try to convince someone of something. Generally, this has not proven to work very well and shuts down the conversation. The best place to start is in your own communities and families and take every opportunity to tell our story, from friends and neighbors all the way to legislators and business leaders.
Why the World Meat Congress is important
Being fairly new to the pig farming business and community, it is incredible to me that an event like this can bring people from every corner of the planet together to have meaningful conversations that apply to so many people. There is such a strong global passion for raising pigs and doing the right thing every day. It is humbling in one regard and frustrating in the other, because we’re not given due credit by our consumers and customers globally. A setting like World Meat Congress is really about solving problems and advancing all farmers and the meat industry together.
World Meat Congress is an event that shows how raising pigs is a huge, global endeavor, but it is so dependent upon pig farmers. When we get up every morning to do what we do, we are connected to a basic need for humanity worldwide. The most important humanitarian effort in the world is to provide healthy, safe food. And we, as pig farmers, do it safely, with reduced impacts to the environment, and with a focus on animal husbandry and worker safety. That’s something to really be proud of, and I’m thankful I was able to attend such an event.