“The consumer-driven concept will mandate a huge paradigm shift for the swine veterinarian,” says Larry Ritter, a veterinarian with Farmland Foods.

In the past, he says, swine veterinarians have mainly influenced the production system that pushed the product up the supply chain, creating a production-driven industry. Whereas the new pork industry is moving into a pull-through system that is consumer driven. What that really means is the consumer pulls pork through the system by determining what products he/she wants, and sending signals to the chain along the way.

In such a system, Ritter says the swine veterinarians’ new roles and opportunities will be:

1. Consultant to food chains: As consultants, veterinarians may serve various industry segments, the highest level being consumer groups, then customers, processors, packers and producers.

2. Designing and implementing food safety programs: This may involve bridging gaps and building relationships. For example, a veterinarian may work with producers and a packer to determine needs, and then work to design a production program that provides a specific product, which then is marketed to a specific consumer.

3. Conduct third-party audits: These audits will be system specific and a veterinarian may work with several sectors of the food chain. The most logical of these is to become involved with third-party audits for certified production systems on the farm.

4. Education: As a key industry influencer, swine veterinarians can serve to educate producers, processors, retailers and even consumers about food safety and production practices. This education role also can serve the industry in terms of working on committees and within the legislative and regulatory arenas.

Specific to producers, veterinarians should reinforce their roles in assisting with food safety related production practices.

5. Herd Health: Veterinarians’ traditional role of monitoring and improving herd health will gain importance in that a healthy pig is key to food safety. Implementing things like Pork Quality Assurance programs and biosecurity measures will continue to be of key importance.