As an animal caretaker, you may not always appreciate the important role you play in the pork industry.  Not only the work you do in the barn with the animals, but perhaps just as important is the interaction that you have with others outside of pork production. 

In recent years, it seems that pork production has been attacked on a number of levels by various groups, questioning the level of care and welfare that we provide our animals. Topics of focus often include the use of antibiotics, odor and pollution issues, and the overall perception that most pork production today is occurring in “pig factories.” These arguments are often presented to work to decrease or eliminate the production of pigs for food and other products.

Although, as the people directly involved in the barns, we may understand the production process differently, much of the general public and our consumers are led to believe the negative images thrown forth. Why? A primary reason is that most of the public has little or no tie to modern agriculture and production practices. 

If we turn back the clock 50 or 60 years, most people then either grew up on a farm or had a close relative that did. Today, a nostalgic, “Norman Rockwell” view of  pork production is often touted as the “right” way to raise pigs compared to our modern production practices, because it is what’s imprinted in the public’s mind. Or at least that’s the romantic notion they want to embrace.

However, the reality is that pork production, like any other business, has had to adapt and change over the years in order to remain competitive and sustainable. Increasing world population has demanded agriculture to increase the amount of food produced, while doing it at a reduced cost. International competition has increased, while the costs for facilities, equipment, labor and feed have as well. This all adds up to smaller margins available for the pork producer. Thus, we have adapted technologies and practices to increase the number of pigs we can raise, and to improve production efficiencies so that our producers and producer families can make a living. 

The complexity of modern pork production has no resemblance to the Norman Rockwell ideal many have maintained. In reality, the old way didn’t either. Pork production and agriculture involve long hours of hard work, often in harsh conditions. Also, the comfort and well-being of animals raised in some of the “old-time” settings could be questioned based on what we know today.

So what can you do? Certainly, negative news always captures headlines and peoples’ attention, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep telling your story — that being involved in pork production is an admirable profession, providing an important product and service to our country and the consuming public.

The pig is perhaps the original “green” adapter as it utilizes byproduct ingredients to produce meat while also creating the ultimate fertilizer — manure. 

Tell your friends and neighbors how pork is an outstanding value, providing an economical and tasty source of nutrients. Convey to others that pork production provides an important economic base for rural communities, supporting not only those working in the barns but also many other area businesses such as grain farmers, feed mills, equipment and building manufacturers, grocers, the schools and others. 

Last, but not least, let everyone know that the U.S. pork industry applies responsible practices to maximize the value and minimize the environmental impact of pig production. We work to ensure the highest level of animal care and well-being, adopt practices to enhance the wholesomeness and safety of pork, and do all of this in a manner that provides an economical food source to the consumer at home and around the world.