Wednesday, Jun 03, 2009 – The National Pork Board has adopted a resolution urging all U.S. pork producers to become certified in the Pork Quality Assurance Plus® program by June 30, 2010, and to achieve PQA Plus® site status by Dec. 31, 2010. Additionally, the board is recommending that producers embrace the ethical principles the industry adopted in 2008.
Steve Weaver, a California pork producer and president of the 15-member board that directs programs funded by the Pork Checkoff, announced the board’s action during World Pork Expo in Des Moines.
Weaver said the board adopted the PQA Plus resolution to give additional momentum to the pork industry’s burgeoning We Care initiative. That initiative, which includes the PQA Plus program as well as other programs, is part of the industry’s desire to earn the trust of its customers, he said.
“We Care is important because it gives pork producers the opportunity to talk about what they do on their farms both in terms of the ethical principles that guide them and the practices they employ,” Weaver said. “That’s a conversation we want to have with as many people as we can.
“PQA Plus is important because it includes steps that allow us to demonstrate directly to our customers that we are raising animals and producing pork in a socially responsible way.”
Weaver said the board “strongly recommends” that pork producers follow the lead of the thousands of producers who already are certified in PQA Plus and who have had their production operations assessed to receive PQA Plus site status.
“I also encourage them to join the producers from across the United States who have pledged their support for We Care,” Weaver said. “It is a way for us to come together as an industry to celebrate what we do every day and to demonstrate that we are doing it the right way.”
Support for the pork industry’s initiative is evident by the rapidly increasing number of producers certified in the Pork Checkoff’s PQA Plus program, Weaver said. In May, the number of pork producers certified in PQA Plus reached 30,000.
“World Pork Expo is the fitting place to highlight the industry’s support for these efforts, because it was here – two years ago in June 2007 – that PQA Plus was rolled out,” he added. “We look forward to seeing all U.S. pork producers certified in PQA Plus in the next year.”
Pork industry stakeholders also continue to declare their support for these initiatives. At World Pork Expo, Tyson Foods publicly endorsed We Care. Gary Machan, vice president of pork procurement for Tyson Foods, stated that the program mirrors Tyson’s own core values. Machan also announced that Tyson will ask all of its U.S. suppliers of pork to become PQA Plus certified by June 30, 2010, and to have pork production sites assessed by the end of that year.
In May, JBS USA, LLC (formerly known as Swift & Company) reiterated its company’s support for PQA Plus. In a letter, JBS requested that all of its U.S. suppliers of pigs be certified in the industry’s judicious antimicrobial use, pork safety and animal well-being certification program by Dec. 31, 2009.
Seaboard Foods also has expressed its support and has said all of its farms will have PQA Plus site assessment by the end of 2010.
“It takes the participation of the entire industry to achieve our goal,” Weaver said. “And, here we have producers and packers demonstrating their commitment to producing safe and wholesome pork in a way that honors the industry’s values.”
Specifically, We Care is aimed at spreading the industry’s message of social responsibility with audiences within and outside the industry. The We Care message was developed by producers and encourages other producers to live and to operate their businesses with care and respect for: The public’s health; producer health and safety; the communities that host pork production; the well-being of the animals; and the environment.
PQA Plus is an education and certification program for pork producers. PQA Plus’ content incorporates animal care and well-being principles and judicious antimicrobial use guidelines to the pork industry food safety and residue avoidance practices established in earlier versions of the PQA program. Pork producers can receive PQA Plus certification by attending a training session with a National Pork Board-certified PQA Plus advisor. PQA Plus-certified pork producers can receive PQA Plus site status for their production operations by having an advisor conduct an on-farm assessment of animal care practices on their farms.