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By Bill Even

Bill Even, National Pork Board CEO

Think of what a different world it was in 1985 when the National Pork Board was created to administer the Pork Checkoff. The Farm Crisis was raging. Global exports were a foreign concept to most U.S. producers. The internet and social media were unheard of.

Producers knew they needed to support Checkoff-funded research, promotion and education to advance the pork industry, and all these years later, this goal has not changed. As you will discover in this issue of Pork Checkoff Report, the Checkoff has helped the pork industry make great progress, but this is not an industry that rests on its laurels. We are always asking, “What’s next?”

Know that your Pork Checkoff investment will continue to fund key research, promotion and education efforts that help make U.S. pork the premiere protein of choice, both at home and around the world. As we look ahead to 2018 and beyond, here is my take on “What’s next?” for pork producers and their partners.

Promotion

It is hard to believe, but in the mid-1990s the United States was a net pork importer. Today, we export 26.4 percent of our product annually. While exports have created amazing opportunities for the pork industry, we are not the only game in town. The global pork market includes strong competition from the European Union, Canada and other nations.

What’s next? We need to up our game to remain the pork provider of choice. This includes telling the stories behind our product and sharing what makes our product unique. To help meet these challenges, we are pleased to welcome Dr. Craig Morris, vice president of international marketing.

Checkoff messages are focusing on providing a more consistent eating experience.

Closer to home, we also continue to maintain a strong emphasis on pork promotion domestically and are always looking at new ways to get the job done. This includes the new Back-to-Basics videos in our online video library that showcase cooking tips, simple recipes and other information that consumers want.

How do we know what consumers want? We ask. The Pork Checkoff has launched the first-ever pork demand landscape research project. The comprehensive study will extend across all ages, income ranges, ethnicities, geographic locations and more to help us better understand what today’s consumers want when it comes to pork.

We are especially interested in knowing how to promote pork to younger consumers, including millennials and Generation Z, which is the younger demographic cohort following the millennials. While we’ve studied “pork champions” and other target markets extensively, we need more broad-based, pork-specific data to craft effective Checkoff-funded domestic promotions.

Education

Keeping producers current on the latest developments affecting the pork industry and emphasizing continuous improvement have defined the Pork Checkoff for decades.

In 2017, antibiotic stewardship remained a key focus. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s new rules ended the use of medically important antibiotics for growth promotion and increased veterinarian oversight for on-farm antibiotic use through veterinary feed directives and prescriptions.

Pig Farmers of Tomorrow Logan Thornton, Maddie Schafer and Kyle Coble (from left) are sharing their farm stories.

The Pork Checkoff’s 2017 work included building new collaborative partnerships to better understand antimicrobial resistance and antibiotic stewardship. The goal? Develop universal standards on antibiotic stewardship.

Pork Checkoff-funded education is not focused exclusively on pork producers, though. We also believe in educating consumers and building trust with them.

What’s next? As we prepare to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the We CareSM ethical principles in 2018, the Pork Checkoff’s new Pig Farmers of Tomorrow program is already building momentum.

This unique award recognizes future farm leaders, ages 18-29, who intend to make pig farming their life’s work and who are committed to the U.S. pork industry and to raising pigs using the We Care ethical principles.

You can read more about the outstanding work accomplished by our first group of Pig Farmers of Tomorrow, who are using blogs and other tools to share their stories via the pork industry’s social media program #RealPigFarming.

 

Research

Did you know the Pork Checkoff has invested more than $60 million in science and technology research in the past 10 years? As we ask “what’s next,” one of the latest investments includes the Pork Checkoff’s inaugural Pig Welfare Symposium, which was held Nov. 7 to 9 in Des Moines.

A “who’s who” event for producers, veterinarians, university staff, packers, processors and industry partners, the successful symposium focused on improving the well-being of pigs by sharing recent research findings and recommendations, raising awareness of current and emerging issues, and identifying potential solutions.

The Pork Checkoff also had a seat at the table for the 2017 Sustainable Agriculture Summit in mid-November in Kansas City, which included pork, dairy, beef, poultry and crop production representatives.

I’m proud of the way the pork industry is establishing itself as a leader in environmental sustainability and social responsibility to become the protein provider of choice.

 

The Pork Checkoff has invested more than $60 million in science/technology research in the past 10 years.

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