by Kevin Waetke
Each November, the National Pork Board surveys pig farmers to take the pulse of U.S. pork production. The most recent survey of 550 producers showed the seventh consecutive year of increased support for the Pork Checkoff. Support rose to a record high of 91 percent, up 1 percentage point from 2015, while opposition was unchanged at 4 percent.
Producers’ No. 1 request of the Pork Checkoff was to educate consumers about pork production and the industry, followed closely by advertising and promoting pork and opening new markets.
“America’s pig farmers understand that growing domestic and export pork demand is critical, but it all starts with building trust,” said National Pork Board President Jan Archer, Goldsboro, North Carolina. “The survey bears out that it begins with educating consumers about how pigs are raised, as well as about pork’s safety and nutritional value.”
The survey also showed:
- Right direction/wrong track – According to 76 percent of producers, the industry is heading “in the right direction,” up from 2015’s score of 70 percent. Of those surveyed, 19 percent said the industry is “on the wrong track.” This improvement in optimism is encouraging despite the market supply pressure many may have felt with lower prices for pigs, Archer said.
- Biggest challenge facing producers – “Too many rules/regulations” was the No. 1 response. In previous years, the main challenge was viewed as “managing hog health and disease,” which fell to No. 4 this year.
The survey also asked about the National Pork Board’s strategic plan, which was implemented early in 2015. Awareness and importance of the plan’s three goals remained strong. Based on a 10-point scale with 10 as the high, this year’s survey showed in comparison with 2015:
- Build Consumer Trust rated a mean score of 8.91, down from 9.04.
- Grow Consumer Demand rated a mean score of 8.70, up from 8.63.
- Drive Sustainable Production rated a mean score of 8.18, up from 7.96.
“The implementation of the strategic plan is aligned with the concerns, interests and thoughts of producers,” Archer said.
Preparation Pays Off
The survey also showed that producers were aware of new federal rules for on-farm antibiotic use, with 95 percent saying they would be fully compliant when the new FDA rules took effect on Jan. 1, 2017.“The pork industry worked toward that date for nearly two years,” said National Pork Board President Jan Archer. “Producers are committed to substantive changes regarding antibiotic use and to maintaining consumer trust in the high quality and safety of U.S. pork.”
Under the new rules, medically important antibiotics can no longer be used for growth promotion, and human medically important antibiotics can only be used to treat sick animals or to prevent disease and/or control it. Antibiotics must be administered under the guidance of a veterinarian, and producers must have an established and ongoing veterinarian-client-patient relationship.
To help producers comply, the Checkoff partnered with Global Vetlink of Ames, Iowa, to offer a veterinarian locator tool.