By Darcy Maulsby

It started as a simple goal in 2004: Create a community-based, volunteer speaker program to address local concerns about pork production. Since then, Operation Main Street (OMS) has grown to include 1,450 people trained as OMS speakers, including 132 swine veterinarians.

Through the years, experienced OMS speakers have addressed high-value audiences, including dietitians, nutritionists, chefs, human health practitioners, grocery associations, schools of veterinary medicine, culinary arts students and other key influencers. By early 2019, OMS speakers will reach a major milestone with the completion of the 10,000th OMS presentation.

Jan Archer – North Carolina pork producer

People receive conflicting information about farming and food. When they turn to experts and influencers for answers, we need to make sure that these people have the best, most up-to-date information about pig farming. OMS has provided great opportunities to share my story. I’ve spoken to students, physicians and dietitians, as well as civic organizations, and have found that each group is hungry for good information they can share.

How we feed our animals, how we clean our barns and why we put so much time into animal care fascinates people far removed from the farm. They are interested in our We CareSM ethical principles. I show how technology gives us the time and ability to focus more on animal care and produce safe food, while protecting our natural resources and public health and making our communities a better place to live.

Abbey Canon – DVM, Center for Food Security & Public Health, College of Veterinary Medicine, Iowa State University

It’s important to reassure healthcare providers that pork is safe and healthy, and that pig farmers care about raising pigs humanely. I’ve spoken to nursing students and nurses, who are among the most trusted professionals in the United States. Nurses have questions about antibiotic use, hormone use and product labeling. I let them know that pig farmers focus on raising healthy pigs and preventing disease, rather than treating disease, to limit the use of antibiotics. Sometimes animals, just like people, need antibiotics to avoid suffering when they’re sick. Pig farmers work with veterinarians to use antibiotics responsibly.

Steve Brie –  production director, Midwest Region, Smithfield Foods

These are positive conversations about pork and swine production with people who are leaders in their field. I’ve spoken to dietitians and retail grocers. Both groups want to learn about how and why we raise pigs the way we do. Even things as simple as why we don’t have “grass-fed pork” and the differences between pigs and cattle are discussed. These presentations are fun and valuable to educate the people who sell and serve our product.