Dark red, marbled pork chops are the juiciest and best tasting when prepared properly.

But some consumers tend to shy away from those chops because of the marbling, and often consumers can find chops that range in color from light pink to dark red in the same package in the meat department at their favorite supermarket.

Dr. Steven Larsen, director of pork safety for the National Pork Checkoff Board, provided those examples to illustrate the need for improving a consistent eating experience for consumers and increasing market demand by elevating and improving what goes into pork quality.

Larsen was one of four industry experts to speak during swine breakout sessions at Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. (BIVI) Mediafest, held Tuesday evening through Thursday afternoon in Kansas City and St. Joseph, Mo.

The event attracted agricultural journalists from some of the leading U.S. pork, beef and dairy publications who had the opportunity to speak with experts in the cattle, swine, dairy and equine industries about a variety of topics ranging from quality and profitability to the latest technological advances being employed to manage disease.

Journalists also heard from Dr. Albrecht Kissel, president and chief executive officer of BIVI, who provided some insights into the fifth largest animal health company in the United States.

Larsen leads oversight and administration of pork quality, pre-harvest and post-harvest research efforts on behalf of the Pork Checkoff and works directly with the Pork Checkoff’s Pork Safety, Quality and Human Nutrition Committee and other pork quality advisory and task force groups.

When pork consumers were asked what pork quality meant to them – as part of a nationwide consumer research study – the No. 1 answer was freshness, Larsen said.

“From a scientific standpoint, freshness means absolutely nothing because it’s all fresh,” Larsen said to laughter from the group in his session. “So you push them and you say, ‘What is freshness?’ (We learned) freshness is color.”

The consumer taste and preference study boiled down to one sentence, Larsen said: “We offer consumers everything. And it’s not differentiated in the retail case. So you get light colored chops compared to dark colored chops to medium colored chops, sometimes in the same packages … so we are very good at offering consumers a variety of quality, and it’s not differentiated.”

Larsen said a National Pork Checkoff Board-sponsored quality task force’s objectives are to establish quality standards to provide a consistent eating experience by reducing the variation of quality at retail, reducing the risk of having a negative eating experience and collaboration from producer to packer to processor to retail and foodservice.

Other swine sessions during BIVI Mediafest featured Dr. Amanda Sponheim, technical specialist veterinarian with BIVI, who discussed how the Disease Bioportal website is being used by veterinarians and producers to better understand and control the spread of disease; Dr. Bill Hollis, a partner in Carthage Veterinary Service, Ltd. and Professional Swine Management, LLC, who discussed what producers can do to help decrease losses and maximize profits, and Dr. Greg Cline, professional services veterinarian with BIVI, who talked about thinking through a swine disease outbreak and preparing for and approaching disease management, including a review of SOURCE, a step-by-step systematic approach to PED prevention and control.

Watch www.porknetwork.com next week for more detailed coverage from all the swine breakout sessions at BIVI Mediafest.

The event also provided ag journalists with an opportunity to tour BIVI’s massive St. Joseph production and warehouse facilities. Since 2009, the company has invested about $173 million into these production and warehouse facilities, including the global packaging and distribution warehouse.

The 260,000-square-foot packaging and distribution warehouse is larger than four football fields and is responsible for packaging all BIVI products for distribution in the United States and 50 countries around the world.

BIVI offers more than 140 products that prevent and treat animal disease in cattle, pigs, horses, dogs and cats. Each year, the company produces more than 1 billion doses of product for animals in the United States and abroad, with China being the largest export market for those products, tour guide Steve Miller said.

BIVI is a subsidiary of the family-owned Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health GmBH worldwide group of companies based in Ingelheim, Germany. Established by Albrecht Boehringer in 1885, Boehringer Ingelheim is the world’s largest privately owned research-based pharmaceutical company.