What will the future hold? Predicting the future has always been a curious idea, but the start of a new century seems to have heightened people’s curiosity even more.

No doubt about it, tremendous change occurs in the course of 100 years.

Since you don’t have a crystal ball, Pork editors asked a variety of pork industry experts to share their view of what lies ahead. Some are longer term than others and some may seem quite abstract. But then again, in 1900 who would have predicted that you could raise thousands of hogs in a climate-controlled building with computerized feeding and ventilation systems?

No one knows for certain what lies ahead, but it’s worth anticipating.

  • Structural changes in the pork industry will create and require new pricing methods. As pork chain segments coordinate and integrate, information systems will coordinate product transfers. Since the consumer cannot be integrated, that marketing exchange will not disappear. All other markets and prices are subject to evolution and potential elimination.

    Capital markets also can’t be integrated, therefore they (especially equity markets) will reward good decision-making, and will fund coordinated or integrated production systems.

    Making resource allocation decisions based on demand vs. traditional market mechanisms is a complicated task. Asset and biologic constraints (for example, the inability to shorten gestation lengths) further complicate the task.

    Equity markets that are very liquid and meet the competitive market criteria – along with consumers – will determine the pork industry’s structure. Possibly the only relevant industry prices will be the price of stock (equities) in companies trying to accomplish the outlined activities and prices determined by consumers.

Dennis DiPietre, E-Markets

  • Genetic advances will come by molecular genetics and marker-assisted selection, as well as conventional selection and cross-breeding practices. Genetic gains will include the traits of reproduction, disease resistance, growth, feed intake and carcass fat. Molecular biology and genetic methods will be used to identify chromosomal regions and individual genes controlling those traits.

    Gene tests will be patented and used in marker-assisted selection programs to create specialized genetic lines to produce specific fresh or processed pork products for specific customers.

Max Rothchild, swine geneticist and national pig genome project director, Iowa State University

  • Regulations and social pressure will polarize livestock production to defined geographic locations. Manure will be processed soon after excretion and marketed as value-added products. Pigs will be grown in micro-managed buildings and fed prescription diets to minimize environmental impact.

Leonard Meador, Global Eco-tech

  • The swine veterinarians’ role in the next century will expand to include the implementation and monitoring of good production practices on the farm. The veterinarian’s focus will encompass all production factors that may impact human health further up the chain – all the way to the consumer’s table.

Tom Burkgren, DVM, American Association of Swine Practitioners

  • Work procedures will become more standardized and automated. More computers and robotic equipment will be used because it will be more affordable than people.

    The labor force will be more diverse, involving more women and more non-English speaking people.
    Employers will need to offer split shifts, job sharing, and part-time jobs, as well as overtime pay.

Gloria Hanson, human resources officer, D & D Farms

  • Diseases will not be allowed to spread across the industry. A network of diagnostic laboratories, researchers, producers, practitioners and government animal health personnel will be in place to detect and respond to emerging or re-emerging swine diseases. This will allow the industry to make quick decisions on the needed action (research, movement restrictions and so forth) when a disease emerges.

Beth Lautner, DVM, National Pork Producers Council

  • Technological advances will solve many of today’s practical nutritional problems:
    • Edible microchips will communicate feed needs to the mill, making it possible to determine daily feed intake, communicate nutrient requirements by measuring a pig’s hormones and metabolites and assess disease problems.
    • Production sites will become zero-manure-output systems through nearly 100 percent digestible diets and manure processing technology.
    • Nutrient conversion gains will drop feed costs to less than 25 percent of total production costs.

Mike Tokach, swine nutritionist, Kansas State University

  • Cooking from scratch will be a speciality activity – like quilt making is today. Consumers will purchase prepared meals for in-home use, selecting what they want, similar to a restaurant menu.
    Consumers will be far removed from the raw material and will have little understanding of what a pork chop or ham looks like. They will understand pork only as a component of a meal.

Rhonda Miller, meat scientist, Texas A & M University

  • Production margins will be narrower than those of the last quarter of the 20th century. They will reflect a risk-adjusted return to equity and market rates for comparable labor and management.
    Pork supply networks with established quality assurance programs and meat quality targets that can differentiate their products to consumers will earn above average returns. A portion of those returns will be invested in developing brand identity, advertising and new product development.

John Lawrence, agricultural economist, Iowa State University

  • Commerce will be totally electronic as people buy products on the Internet. Merchandise will be delivered to their homes and billed to credit cards. Food will be sold this way, but also will be available through restaurants where you will order online from your home.

    Marketers will spend much time and money identifying price tolerances, exactly what customers want and how they want it delivered. Electronic commerce will provide this data. Pork producers will have access to this customer knowledge through their supply chain affiliation and ownership.

David Meeker, Ohio Pork Industry Center coordinator, Ohio State University

  • A producer will have to prove by documentation that his system complies with specific environmental requirements in order to market his/her hogs. This might include building air quality and water quality measurements, land application nutrient loading records, maybe even animal handling techniques. This is already taking shape in other countries.

Leonard Meador, Global Eco-tech

  • Food processing companies will purchase raw materials and pay based on the product’s ability to meet specifications, which will be tightly controlled for quality, composition and safety. Pork producers will direct their production systems to meet those specifications. For example, pork that has a high water-holding capacity, a specified flavor profile, a low microbial level and less than 4 percent fat would be a premium product.

Rhonda Miller, meat scientist, Texas A & M University

  • Today’s swine diseases will be history. Producers and practitioners will develop health programs on a community rather than an individual herd basis. Strict standards will be set within these programs, including third party auditing and certification of biosecurity practices and periodic herd monitoring.

    “Dipstick” technology will allow testing of multiple agents with a single sample at the “pig level”. This technology is already being developed by defense agencies for biological terrorism.

Beth Lautner, DVM, National Pork Producers Council

  • Advances in facility technology will include:
    • Environmental controllers that visually inspect the pigs and adjust the environment to suit their needs. The infrared visioning equipment would evaluate heat loss and animal posture to determine when pigs are chilled or too warm.
    • Sensors will monitor crops to determine when and the amount of nutrients needed. Automated sensors will determine the manure’s nutrient content, and manure systems will automatically deliver tailored amounts.

Jay Harmon, agricultural engineer, Iowa State University

  • In the next five years routine swine vaccines will be administered by aerosol. In 10 years, vaccines will be given orally via genetically engineered feed ingredients. These vaccines will be herd specific and multivalent. In 20 years, disease resistance through use of genetic markers, selection and propagation will replace vaccinations. Producers will select animals based on disease challenges and the production system.

Joe Connor, DVM, Carthage Veterinary Clinic

  • Employees won’t be looking for a lifetime career, so short-term benefits like bonuses will be more meaningful. Cafeteria plans offering customized benefits to suit the individual will be standard.

Gloria Hanson, human resources officer, D & D Farms

  • Producers (with their technology consultants) will use computers to choose desired traits from a menu of genetic, nutrition and management options. A modeling program will formulate the most efficient combination to optimize profits for specific customer demands. Producers will make decisions knowing the monetary value of each choice. If the technology, genetics or feedstuffs needed are not available in his/her system, a producer will post the desired specifications into a provider network.

    Within hours, providers will line up to fill the producer’s needs. However, the next day’s assessment of what producers and consumers want may require something totally new. Supply chains will invest in exploratory development to offer products that consumers never even thought of demanding.

David Meeker, Ohio Pork Industry Center coordinator,Ohio State University

  • People will want to know how and where their vegetables and meat come from. An increasing segment will demand that pork producers reach some standard of humane care, based on science and human perception. Crates of all types will lose favor as will concrete slatted floors and confinement barns.

    By mid-century, techniques will be perfected to grow muscles in beakers and animal welfare discussions will become moot. Greenhouse-like structures with culture flasks will replace barns and live animals. Cell-culture-grown muscles will be formed into hams, bacon or boneless pork loins – no nervous system, no pain, no suffering. Residents of 2100 will not believe we used real animals to produce meat.

John McGlone, animal scientist, Texas Tech University

  • Specific pig genetics will be developed to perform “bio-pharming” to produce products for use as human medicine and transplantion.

Max Rothchild, swine geneticist and national pig genome project director, Iowa State University