Editor’s Note: In Part 1 of PORK Network’s exclusive interview with Bill Even, CEO of the National Pork Board, he discussed the three biggest challenges to the pork industry. In a follow-up question featured Thursday, he was asked about the three biggest threats the industry faces in 2017 and beyond. In this segment, he tells why he is so excited about the future of the pork industry, despite the challenges and threats.

PORK Network: What do you see as the three greatest opportunities for pork producers in the U.S. in 2017?

Even: Number one is growth. When you think about an opportunity, imagine you were wanting to expand your production operation but there was no expansion going on in the packing industry – that puts you in a tougher spot. When I talk about opportunity of growth, I’m talking on a broad level. Growth is not costless – there are challenges. There will be profitability and efficiency challenges and everything that comes along with that, but we live and operate in a free market, capitalist country, and I’d much rather be part of a growing industry and the headaches that come with that, than to be part of an industry that’s dead, dying or declining, and the terminal headaches that come with that.

I don’t have rose-colored glasses on at the NPB, but I view the opportunity for producers and the relationships they have in the industry is available in a growing industry.

Another opportunity for America’s pork producers, through their checkoff, is to tell the story of the “best pork ever.” The fact that this industry is a leader in animal health and welfare, production methods. It’s an industry that’s incredibly diverse. We represent producers across the spectrum (big, little, outdoor and indoor systems, people who are supplying niche markets and high-end retail, to large facilities providing ample supplies of affordable pork for consumers, that improves the standard of living in the U.S. and improves the health of our citizens as well as consumers around the world.

We have a great story to tell – this tasty, versatile, affordable great product called pork is the No. 1 consumed protein in the world, No. 2 consumed protein in the United States. Consumers should feel guiltless about purchasing a product they know is produced in a responsible fashion, and then they can be very comfortable enjoying the taste and flavor of it as well.

"You need to have your own core principles and things you believe in, and those need to be your touchstone. The world, the circumstances and the issues will always change, but as long as you have the base of who you are and understand the difference between right and wrong, you'll be OK."

PORK Network: What do you enjoy most about being CEO of the National Pork Board?

Even: I really enjoy working in an industry that knows how to be a leader. We raised hogs up until 1996, and we were getting ready to build a confinement unit. The hog market declined so we decided not to make that investment. Over the course of my career, my experience of dealing with pork producers and the industry has been fantastic. Pork producers have a strong, independent, “git ‘er done” mindset, they operate in a competitive global market and their skillsets and senses are attuned to how to do things right; and how we can do things better. They seek information and seek out facts; they ask a lot of really hard questions and they’re driven with passion, but they make decisions and they move, and it’s refreshing to be part of that.

Whether it’s the 15- member producer board from across the U.S. that I report to, with all different shapes and sizes of operations, they think and act that same way. They’re passionate, they’re driven, and they ask some really difficult and intelligent questions. They debate and push-pull on each other about where this industry needs to be, but they make up their mind and they have an action-oriented mindset. I like that, and I think that’s something the Pork Board is proud to be part of. Our employees here share that same passion and mindset.