Personal responsibility is hard to come by these days. Whether it’s an individual, a group, a business or a politician, the tendency is to look for someone else to charge with the task or even to blame.

Well, all is not lost. In a recent survey directed by Pork magazine, pork producers and other industry participants overwhelmingly acknowledged their responsibility in producing safe, high-quality pork products, while keeping the animal, worker and environment in mind. Anyone who really knows pork producers and the industry shouldn’t be surprised, but it’s heartwarming and satisfying to get the confirmation.

The first question was loaded; it asked “Who do you feel should carry the primary responsibilities (in the following areas) in providing pork products to consumers?” Here’s what respondents said:

 

Producer

 

Veterinarian

 

Packer

 

Retailer

 

Ethics

 

67.4%

 

9.8%

 

11.4%

 

11.4%

 

Communication

 

33.3%

 

4.5%

 

20.5%

 

41.7%

 

*Social expectations

 

47%

 

1.5%

 

16.7%

 

43.8%

 

Increasing demand

 

29.5%

 

0%

 

14.4%

 

56.1%

 

Defeating activism

 

62.1%

 

7.6%

 

12.9%

 

17.4%

 

Product safety

 

39.4%

 

17.4%

 

37.1%

 

6.1%

 

Transportation/handling

 

60.6%

 

0.8%

 

36.4%

 

2.3%

 

Educating retailers, foodservice

 

17.4%

 

2.3%

 

38.6%

 

41.7%

 

Educating consumers

 

25.8%

 

0%

 

3.8%

 

70.5%

 

It’s clear that producers carry the biggest load. However, several responded: “We’re all part of a team.”

Looking ahead, the survey asked: “How do you see your food-safety responsibility?”

It’s no surprise that this question generated the most comments. Many of those who responded “staying the same,” said they already make food safety a priority. “There is no substitute for being responsible,” said one producer. “It is something that I do because I love my family, the land and care about the people who receive my product.”

For those who said their food-safety responsibility will increase, some common themes surfaced. “Consumers are demanding it.” “Customers’ expectations are increasing.” “People want to buy wholesome meat.” “People have choices; they do not have to purchase pork.” Other consensus points, included: “Food safety starts at the farm.” “It is shared by the chain.” “I have to be responsible for the product I produce.”

While there were plenty of dynamic comments, here are some that resonated strongly: “If I make a mistake, it will impact the whole pork industry.” “Everyone in pork production better take this seriously, if they want to stay in business. Every time there is a food-related scare, people lose trust in agriculture.”

“How do you see yourself?” was another question that generated an overwhelming response.

Interestingly, many of those who identified themselves as a hog producer talked about focusing on the animal and the husbandry involved. “While I am conscious that I am raising food, my top priority is to the pigs. They are living, breathing beings that need top care,” was one response.

Many of those that checked the food-producer box were very matter of fact: “I’m selling food, plain and simple.” Others talked about being the first link in the chain, and needing to lead by example.

Some of the more telling comments were: “The hog is the vehicle that I use to put food on the consumers’ tables.” “What I do is more involved than just producing hogs; my goal is to profitably produce a healthy, safe product.”

The survey also asked: “Do you work with stakeholders through the production chain to ensure you’re delivering a safe, quality pork product?” The response was:

While not a bad response, there is room for improvement. The packer was the most common link cited. Specific measures included conducting audits, face-to-face meetings, ensuring drug withdrawals, animal-handling training, Pork Quality Assurance and getting production advice and guidelines for the product. “I don’t want to produce what the packer doesn’t want,” was the reality.

Certainly, pork producers as a group can be proud of their responsibility awareness. Now the questions are how responsible are you, and what are you doing to ensure your future?