A+ for America’s pig farmers

Photograph courtesy of National Pork Board

Transparency and trust have never been in such high demand from consumers. Research from Pork Checkoff indicates more than 40% of U.S. consumers want to know where their meat comes from[1]. They want assurance that the practices used on farms contribute positively to society, the economy and the environment. There’s a lot that goes into raising safe and nutritious food—including pork—and it starts on the farm.

There are more than 60,000 pig farmers across the United States. Their farms are as varied as they are in number—from small-branded, specialty or direct-to-consumer operations to those selling millions of animals into the commodity pork market annually. And despite their diversity, America’s pig farmers are united in their quest to make pork the most sustainable meat. Part of that unified approach is commitment to a long-standing, proven training process providing on-farm best practices and guidance to provide pigs the best care.

Dedicated to continuous improvement for the modern consumer

While a commitment to continuous improvement and delivering a quality product for consumers to enjoy is not new to the U.S. pork industry, America’s pig farmers recently elevated their focus on sustainability with the release of the industry’s 2021 Sustainability Report. Within the report, the pork industry shares ambitious goals for future improvement, developed through a farmer-led process, and commits to further progress on environmental, societal and economic measures, while outlining a plan for transparent and frequent reporting. The goals and metrics are guided by the industry’s longstanding We Care® Ethical Principles.

Action-oriented commitment includes training the people who care for pigs

The food service industry is familiar with the important role employee training plays in delivering safe, high-quality food products to its customers. The pork industry also relies on training to ensure pig farm employees follow best practices when it comes to animal health and well-being. This is done in part through employee training and certification programs like Pork Quality Assurance® (PQA®) Plus and Transport Quality Assurance® (TQA®). Currently, more than 85% of pork comes from farms that are PQA Plus-certified, which ensures pigs are raised in the ideal environment with their welfare in mind; they are checked daily for their health and well-being, given access to high quality food and cared for according to plans developed in collaboration with veterinarians.

These programs supporting the industry’s goals and metrics are a commitment to providing meaningful work for the people who choose to dedicate their careers to raising the food we eat.

“The PQA program is really helpful in that it provides a booklet that basically spells everything out from A to Z of how animals should be taken care of properly, and how to go about your daily routine of taking care of the animals,” said Kenny Brinker, who owns and operates Brinker Farms and Harrison Creek Farms in Auxvasse, Mo. “We have eight individuals who work full time taking care of our pigs down at the sow farm. Each and every one of them go through that PQA program to learn about proper pig care with an emphasis on animal welfare and biosecurity. Similarly, all of the truckers who haul livestock to our packing plant are required to be TQA-certified, which teaches them how to handle animals, what you can and can’t do and those types of things.”

Pig farmers like Brinker—who has a long-tenured employee roster—credit these training programs for equipping employees to have long and fruitful careers on America’s pig farms.

PQA Plus exemplifies the commitment of farmers to continuously improve pig production practices. The training process answers foodservice operators’ customer requests to deliver a high-quality product produced through food safety animal welfare practices on the farm.

To learn more about America’s pig farmers’ commitment to people, pigs and the planet, visit www.porkcares.org.

[1] Pork Checkoff “At Home Meat Tracker,” Q2 2020

This post is sponsored by National Pork Board