Sustainability. Foreign Animal Disease (FAD). Labor. Trade. There is no shortage of hot topics in the pork industry. A leading panel of pork industry experts discussed the latest issues in the industry at this World Pork Expo Pork Academy session.

Pork Checkoff Priorities

National Pork Board CEO Bill Even highlighted the 2022 priorities set by the Board of Directors: 

  • Real Pork: Build trust and add value through a positive image of U.S. pork 
  • Keep ASF out: Foreign animal disease prevention and preparedness 
  • Sustainability: Establish U.S. pork as a global sustainability leader 
  • Grassroots engagement: Support and engage producers, including contract growers 
  • Diversify international portfolio: Maintain and grow international markets for U.S. pork 

Even stressed the importance of working collaboratively with industry partners and stakeholders at the local, state and federal levels. Partners include the National Pork Producers Council, U.S. Meat Export Federation, U.S. Department of Agriculture, North American Meat Institute and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians.

Even also emphasized the importance of telling our own story as an industry. As consumers continue to ask for transparency about how their food is raised, it is crucial to use all tools at our disposal to claim and take credit for the work the industry has been doing. 

“If you’re not telling your story, someone else will and they’ll tell it wrong” – Bill Even, CEO, National Pork Board.

Rising Feed and Fuel Prices Affect Profitability

Profitability continues to be a key priority for producers, says Steve Meyer, Ph.D., economist, Partners for Production Agriculture. As the prices of feed and fuel continue rising due to global events, production costs are also increasing. Other issues that can affect profitability include Prop 12, the threat of African swine fever and other foreign animal diseases, the hog supply, operational capacity, labor and building costs. 

Despite consumption not always equating to demand, Americans consume an average of 220 lbs. of meat each year. 

Shrinking Workforce Leads to Increase in Wages and Competition

The last time there was a labor shortage like the current situation was during World War II. This has caused an increase in wages and in competition, says Victor Ochoa, managing director, SwineWorks LLC. A huge spike in retirements over the last two years, accelerated by the pandemic, and a limited migrant workforce due to changes in immigration policies have played a role in shrinking the workforce.  

The pork industry can position itself as a competitive employer by: 

  • Taking care of current staff 
  • Updating benefit packages and wages 
  • Attracting younger generation 
  • Getting on social media 
  • Exploring other visa options 

Gaining Consumer Trust with Pork Industry Sustainability Goals and Metrics

For pork producers, sustainability is beyond a buzz word. It is what farmers have been doing forever, says Sara Crawford, Ph.D., and president of Sustainable Environmental Consultants.

The United Nations defines sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” There are only two industries that are truly capable of being sustainable: agriculture and forestry.  

Consumers want to know where food is coming from more now than ever. As an industry, we need to help them understand and gain their trust by making it easy for them to access information and learn about the pork production process.  

On-Farm Sustainability Reports continue to be the best way to take credit for the work the industry has done. These reports provide real data on your farm’s operations. They can be shared with stakeholders, lenders and partners and help you tell your sustainability story. 

Preventing Foreign Animal Disease Outbreaks

Foreign animal diseases continue to be a threat for pork producers. Looking at countries that recently have seen outbreaks, none of them were able to contain and get rid of it quickly. Jeff Kaisand, DVM and state veterinarian for the Iowa Department of Agriculture, says it is imperative to be proactive and prepared, rather than reactive.  

Foreign animal disease prevention and preparedness is in the hands of producers. Tools such as AgView, which can be used for contact tracing in the case of an outbreak, make it possible to react quickly and effectively.  

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