In Throwback Thursday articles, we look back at the history of Pork Network and the pork industry. This week, we're throwing it back to April 1997 when a name change for the National Pork Producers Council was a hot topic. It origially appeared as an editorial by Marlys Miller.

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet…” William Shakespeare wrote those words referring to the plight of Romeo and Juliet. However, applied literally, they still ring true.

If a rose were named “thornflower” for example, the fragrance would in fact smell as sweet. But I wonder if people would name their daughters after it? Thornflower Johnson just doesn’t work.

Names do make an impression and can, at least subtly, shape who we are. That’s why parents spend hours mulling over choices to find the right one.

At this year’s Pork Industry Forum in Atlanta, delegates to the National Pork Producers Council mulled over just such a choice. Hawaii and North Carolina delegations presented a joint resolution to change NPPC’s name to the National Pork Industry Council.

Their goal may have been simply to motivate discussion and stimulate thought. I applaud that.

The name change became the most hotly debated topic at the otherwise quiet and amiable meeting.

Here’s the logic behind the proposal: In recent years NPPC has moved toward a broader industry focus. Allied industry and pork packers each have a seat on NPPC’s board of directors. Both contribute financially to the organization, however, to a much lesser degree than the producers’ $41.8 million (in 1996). Industry representatives from researchers to veterinarians to lenders regularly participate on NPPC committees and task forces.

Last year, NPPC’s long-range plan was amended to adopt a pork chain mentality. The mission statement now reads: “To enhance opportunities for success of U.S. pork producers and other industry stakeholders.”

Those all were big steps for a producer organization, and they went through with relative ease and understanding. I applaud them for it. But changing the name hits too close to home yet.

The savvy producer today recognizes that he or she doesn’t market pork alone. Many players along the way have a vital role in getting pork products to the consumer. Producers also better understand that you accomplish more when you work in harmony with those players.

For some, the issue is simple: Do not remove “producers” from the name. After all, you do provide most of the money. But that’s also where the organization’s roots lie. Many of you feel vulnerable these days. A lot of people are trying to dictate what you can and can’t do with your business. NPPC is supposed to be your mouthpiece. Removing producers from the organization’s name may feel too much like removing producers from the priorities.

A name change is worth considering, but it should not be done hastily. The delegates made the right choice by sending it to NPPC’s board of directors with the charge of presenting a recommendation at next year’s Pork Forum.

There needs to be careful thought and dialogue given to the image a new name will convey. These days, pork producers definitely need to be concerned about their public image.

Making ”industry" part of the name would be a mistake. Imagine the mouthwatering pork commercial ending with the message: “Brought to you by the National Pork Industry Council.” How might consumers interpret that?

I believe it would support the notion that pork is produced by corporations. The word “industry" leaves a different impression than “producers.” We need to reconfirm that pork is produced by sincere, conscientious individuals.

We need to consider how the name will play to the many groups in Washington, DC, and in foreign countries.

The delegates did consider another alternative: the National Pork Council. I find that one more palatable. But you also need to consider whether the name can fulfill its promise. Can or should one organization serve all segments of the industry? Or should separate industry organizations work together for a common goal? Granted, agriculture isn’t known for its cooperation.

If an organization is to embrace all segments of the industry, then all segments need to contribute financially. Naturally, they will expect a voice in programs and policy, which brings us back to some of the original concerns.

The name has changed before. In 1954, the group started as the National Swine Growers Council. Its purpose: to pursue the goal of producing a leaner, meat-type hog and to develop more pork-specific promotional funding.

In 1965, it was renamed the National Pork Producers Council to reflect the industry’s increased emphasis on the pork product- an insightful decision.

Perhaps after 32 years it is time for a change. Then again, it may be wise to stay with a name people know.

What’s in a name? Volumes. Whether or not NPPC should have a new one is worth thinking and talking about. I challenge you to spend some time doing just that. Then let NPPC and us - know what you think.