The National Pork Board visited the number one customer for U.S. pork—Mexico
Jan Archer, President , National Pork Board
Don Wick: 00:04 From the Pork Checkoff in Des Moines Iowa, it’s Pork Pod. Pork Pod, a look at the hot topics in today’s pork industry. The Pork Checkoff is working for you through various forms of research, promotion, and consumer information projects. This is Don Wick, speaking on behalf of the Pork Checkoff, and today, our guest is Jan Archer, President of the National Pork Board. The National Pork Board has returned from a trade mission to Mexico. Jan, after the trip called it “an eye-opening experience”. Jan, what do you mean by that?
Jan Archer: 00:31 I don’t know that I understood really how important the Mexican market was for us. I knew the numbers. I knew that January of this year, Mexico was our number one trading partner, both in volume and in value. And historically, they’ve been our largest trading partner in value because they take some of the products from the pig that we don’t use here. They they take the offal. They are our largest purchaser of American hams, that they then add value to and do for further processing of. But it was really interesting to me how highly they valued American pork. I’ve been in other countries. I’ve seen how other countries use our products. But the availability of fresh, wholesome, safe, affordable pork was so important to the people of Mexico. And we got an opportunity to talk to some of our customers there and we felt valued. We felt that they understood how hard we work as farmers to produce that product. So it was definitely eye opening.
Don Wick: 01:41 Certainly no secret we have a lot of political rhetoric. Was a lot of anxiety going to Mexico during this particular time?
Jan Archer: 01:52 Sure! Yes, I can honestly say that there was probably some discussion about whether this was the right time to go. I would argue that this was the best time to go. We were there, number one, to see the market, to look at the market, and to let the market know that we value to them too. So it was definitely a two way street. The average Mexican family spends between 30 and 40 percent of their income on food. We here in the United States spend about 10 percent of our income on food. So that puts the availability of affordable food so high on the Mexican priority list. And we’re neighbors, you know, of course you want to be on good terms with your neighbor, whether it’s your neighbor across the street, or your neighbor across the border. So, it was really important that we were there, especially at this time. And interestingly there were other commodities there as well, because every commodity understands how important these markets are to us. The Dairy Export Council was there when we were there. The American Grains Council was there while we were there. All of us, trying to impress on our partners in Mexico how important they are us and we know that we are important to them. So we want to maintain those relationships through any rhetoric that may be happening between our two countries.
Don Wick: 03:23 Was that message heard? Do they see the U.S. as a strong supplier of U.S. pork and other commodities to that country?
Jan Archer: 03:31 They do. They absolutely do. And they understand that. But they also understand that we are not the only game in town and they are hedging their bets and they’re looking at other options and we want to keep them as a partner. We want to keep them as a market, so maintaining those relationships, and relationships are important in any kind of sale that you’re doing whether you’re selling a car or selling a commodity. Knowing someone, having the opportunity to talk to them, and shake their hand is really helpful in establishing good trade relationships. So that’s one of the things that we wanted to do as a board and you know as board members we come from all different kinds of production. We come from different parts of the country. I come from North Carolina. I speak Spanish and one of the reasons I speak Spanish is because a lot of the people that work on our farm are Spanish speaking. But that’s not true in every part of the country so people who didn’t necessarily understand what the market was in Mexico or how highly they value our product or how important pork is in the Mexican diet. Pork is the meat of the party. You know it’s what families come to. When there’s a party in Mexico, pork is on the menu. So it was great for producers to see how valued their product was in that country.
Don Wick: 05:00 You mentioned the hams and some of the pork byproducts we probably typically don’t have on a U.S. dinner table. How are they utilizing our products?
Jan Archer: 05:10 You know it’s really interesting! We went through several markets. We went through wet markets. We went through Costco. You know we tried to look at it from the entire gamut. There were the things they used, they use pork uterus, pig uterus, in tacos. They were importing brains. They were importing faces, which they called “mascara”, and they would chop it up, and season it and highly season it! And certainly, it’s not something that’s on our table all the time. But I have to say, it was delicious! And they knew how to use every part of the animal, and you can’t help but value that. You know, that’s what my grandparents did. And when we say everything from the pig except the squeal, that’s exactly what they were using.
Don Wick: 06:09 So our number one customer right now. Is there’s still growth potential, do you think, in Mexico?
Jan Archer: 06:16 Absolutely, there’s growth potential. I was in Mexico quite a long time ago and Mexico is becoming a richer country. It’s… their income level is still not near what it is in the U.S., but they are becoming a richer country. And as every other country that gains wealth, their diet will include more protein and the logical source of protein is American pork. We are right there. And they’re also growing their own local market and they’re growing their own domestic market. But interestingly, you know I’ve been in a lot of other countries and very often a country will prefer their domestic product over imported product. That’s not true in Mexico. In Mexico, they really valued American pork. They knew it was safe and it’s affordable. So there’s absolutely the opportunity for growth, really in all of North America from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. There’s a good opportunity for growth. And we are the economic generator. So it makes sense to be, to have that kind of partnership.
Don Wick: 07:21 What a wonderful opportunity for the other members of the National Pork Board, along with yourself, this past week.
Jan Archer: 07:28 Oh it was a great opportunity! And we got the opportunity to talk to just people on the street. And you know politicians can say whatever they want to say but, farmer to Farmer and farmer to consumer, those were easy conversations to have because we were all on the same page. We were just so grateful in how well we were received in Mexico, and how much information we received, and how open they were to listening to us. So my prayer is that we stay good trade partners with Mexico because we just make sense together.
Don Wick: 08:09 Jan Archer from the National Pork Board. Thanks to you for listening to this edition of pork pod. For more information on this topic or the Pork Checkoff itself, visit pork.org.