By Mike Skahill, Vice President of Government Affairs for Smithfield Foods
U.S. pig farmers are part of a unique business that knows few boundaries, geographic and otherwise. At the recent World Meat Congress in Dallas, Texas, that message was loud and clear.
It is simply an awesome opportunity to attend such an event that showcases the diversity of the industry. Representatives from farms, governments and companies that do everything from raise pigs to produce and market products such as hams, sausage, and fresh pork cuts were represented. It was a chance to network with more than 700 people from around the world representing the gamut of the industry responsible for sustaining a critical food source for billions of people around the world, not to mention showcase the quality, wholesomeness and safety of U.S. pork.
The pork industry’s diversity was no more apparent than when top-level members of governments of the U.S., Canada and Mexico spoke from the same podium to speak to the shared ambition of continuing to sustain a safe and wholesome supply of pork around the world.
To me, from my tenure at Smithfield, that starts at the farm level with a simple strategy: being responsible. Doing the right thing to raise healthy pigs is the foundation of the entire industry, and it all boils down to responsibility. Raising pigs in modern barns with the latest technology, for example, helps farmers better care for their animals. Beyond being the responsible thing to do, it’s also critical to sustaining access to pork-hungry consumers around the world – starting on our farms and running throughout our entire supply chain.
Part of pig farmers’ responsibility also comes through innovation, something that’s been central to Smithfield’s operations for years. A culture of innovation is important to us, and adopting the latest technology to raise pigs is one strategy that fits in with the ethic of responsible production that is key to both our company and the entire industry.
Though farm-level innovation is critical to sustaining the role of U.S. pork around the world, so too is the same spirited innovation in other sectors of the industry like medicine. We established our Smithfield Bioscience unit last year to find new ways to leverage pigs and porcine products to aid human health through tissue engineering and muscle repair, for example. Though the technology is advanced, the same ethic of responsibility remains, and it’s a growing part of an industry that shares the drive to do the right, responsible thing in meeting growing and diversifying consumer demands around the world.
Across the spectrum, whether you’re a small, medium or large farmer, you should feel proud to be part of such a cohesive industry. We should be proud of how unified we are in our goal of responsibly producing animals. Animal husbandry is important to every farmer regardless of his or her size, and it’s heartening to know that singular focus runs through our industry so strongly.
Though the hog industry is not without its challenges, events like the World Meat Congress show that while we are part of an extremely diverse business, we are at the same time part of a cohesive group of men and women committed to the goal of responsibly raising pigs and meeting our population’s growing needs.