A major driver of pork industry change is industrialization, according to Chris Hurt, Purdue University agricultural economist. More specifically, he means the movement to large, standardized production linked to the processing sector.

The pork industry didn’t embrace the industrialization mentality until 1985, when the first 1,000-sow unit was built in North Carolina, says Hurt. Now, the pork industry is 80 percent to 85 percent through the industrialization life cycle and most production gains have been realized.

The industry has been slow to adopt industrialization principles largely because of fear that disease would spread in large animal concentrations. Other reasons also include the need for specialized labor, round-the-clock operation and huge sums of capital.

The pork industry has clearly moved toward coordinating production with processing demand, says Hurt. He sees production and processing moving closer together, with only eight to 10 processing companies in the United States by 2005 and the same number on a global scale by 2015. This doesn’t mean producers will disappear, it means they need to determine where they fit in and align themselves accordingly.

The challenge for the pork industry in the future is to view change as an opportunity rather than a threat, Hurt contends.