While today’s consumers still prioritize taste when making purchasing decisions at the meat counter, research shows grocery shoppers are more interested than ever in knowing where their food comes from and how it was raised to positively affect our society, economy and environment(1). With the recent release of the pork industry’s 2021 Sustainability Report, U.S. pig farmers are proving their shared commitment and aspiration to be the most sustainable protein.
To deliver on this commitment while meeting the growing needs of tomorrow’s consumers, America’s 60,000+ pig farmers constantly learn and adopt best practices in animal well-being, health and stewardship based on scientific data.
Responsible Care Rooted in Technology and Transparency
Pig farmers are creating new, innovative approaches to enhance the well-being of pigs on their farms. In Ulysses, Nebraska, Lukas Fricke and his family have raised pigs for six generations. Throughout their farm’s history, their focus on continuous improvement means adapting processes to keep pigs as healthy and safe as possible. This includes jumping into the world of blockchain technology to track the well-being of every pig.
“Technology has given us the ability to take every single thing we do with each pig and verify it – whether it’s how much water or food they eat or drink, the technologies we use to keep them healthy, or how many times a person comes into the barn and how they interact with the pigs,” said Fricke, production operations manager, Union Farms.
Guided by the pork industry’s We Care® Ethical Principles which were established in 2015, the data Fricke collects follows each pig through the pork supply chain, resulting in a transparent and verifiable record of how the pigs were raised.
“It’s really about the transparency of the data,” Fricke said. “We want to give consumers the pieces of data that help them to trust the quality of pork products. It’s really an unspoken rule, but my responsibility as a pig farmer is to take care of the air, water, land and animals I am in charge of.”
By relying on data and analytics, the pork industry can continue to help retailers meet the needs of the modern-day consumer.
An Industry Committed to End-to-End Certification
Providing pigs with the highest level of care is a top priority for the pork industry. Kenny Brinker, a pig farmer who operates his family’s farm, Harrison Creek Farms, in Auxvasse, Missouri, says industry certification programs help ensure every member of his team understands the best approaches for working with pigs.
Pig farmers like Brinker actively engage with the scientific community, government agencies and supply chain partners to create and implement credible training programs and science-based policies that advance pig safety and animal welfare. Current programs available to pig farmers include:
- PQA ® Plus worker certification and site assessments - a comprehensive food safety and animal well-being education, training and certification program where farmers leverage best practices in food safety, animal care, public health, worker safety and the environment.
- TQA® worker certifications - a program that helps pig transporters, farmers and handlers understand how to handle, move and transport pigs, as well as the potential impacts transport can have on pig well-being and pork quality.
- Common Swine Industry Audit - an industry-wide program certified by Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization (PAACO) and developed in partnership with organizations across the entire food chain to assure consumers of the care farmers and pork processors take to improve animal well-being and food safety.
“The Pork Quality Assurance (PQA) program is really helpful in that it provides detailed instruction of how to go about your daily routine of taking care of pigs from A to Z. It truly highlights how animals should be taken care of properly,” said Brinker.
To date, 85% of U.S. pigs come from farms utilizing these programs with 71,000 on-farm personnel enrolled in PQA Plus, ensuring that safe and nutritious pork continues to be in the meat case for consumers and retailers alike.
To learn more about the pork industry’s commitment to animal welfare and their commitment to making pork sustainable from farm to fork, please visit https://go.porkcheckoff.org/l/775063/2022-03-15/2qndn1.
1 Checkoff funded research with Heart + Mind Strategies, Oct 2021
This post is sponsored by National Pork Board