Each year, the National Pork Board's six producer-led science and technology committees meet to identify and prioritize research needs and funding allocations.

This year’s effort was just completed in Dallas, Texas, where committee members reviewed research proposals and selected projects to receive National Pork Checkoff funding in 2012. In all, the participants reviewed more than 100 proposals, and in the end, selected those that would were deemed to offer the greatest benefit to the overall industry.

"This meeting is an opportunity to bring producer leaders and volunteers together with different areas of focus and expertise, not just to look at research in their areas, but to look across to other areas as well," says Paul Sundberg, NPB's vice president of science and technology. "Producers take many things into account when determining what proposals get funded each year, including ensuring that the research is not being done elsewhere, the project will have high impact for the industry and the results will be publically available. Also that it provides unique scientific and technical information that will benefit the entire industry is a major pork checkoff goal."

NPB reports some of the new information and action, coming from the respective science and technical research committees, included:

Animal Science - Research results, addressed by NPB's Nutritional Efficiency Consortium, are published at pork.org. The committee asked for a more comprehensive summary of this research to be available later this year. The committee has dedicated resources to work on pork quality, as it relates to on-farm factors that could affect pork product tenderness.

Animal Welfare - Proposals on pain management related to castration and euthanasia were funded. Work on the next version of Pork Quality Assurance Plus also was discussed, with the launch of an updated program slated for mid-2013. Housing and transportation research remain as key priorities.

Environment - The committee discussed additional work on pork’s carbon footprint that will be released in 2012, including a baseline report and improvements to the calculator tool. In 2013, an economic component for the calculator is expected, along with a water footprint baseline and calculator and an air emissions model.

Pork Safety, Quality and Human Nutrition - Several proposals related to how fat quality affects overall meat quality were funded. The objective of these projects is to help producers raise animals that will provide high-quality pork to increase consumer demand. For human nutrition, the committee identified priorities for the next call for research, including areas addressing satiety, body composition, weight loss/maintenance, cognition function and pork's role in a healthy diet.

Producer/Public Health and Worker Safety - This is a newly formed committee, and it approved its mission statement, which is: "To acquire and provide science-based information that will protect and improve producer and public health, promote a safe farm-work environment and enhance consumer confidence in U.S. pork production." Research items that were funded addressed environmental movement of antimicrobial and resistant bacteria and resistant genes, as well as a study on the impact of pig health on public health.

Swine Health - This committee funded research on the transmission and vaccine development for influenza, as well as diagnostics and intervention strategies for swine dysentery, mycoplasma and rotavirus. They also funded research on foreign animal disease that could assist in developing better vaccines for diseases, such as foot-and-mouth disease. While not discussed at this meeting, Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus remains a top concern, and a special call for PRRS research proposals will occur later this year.

Sow-lifetime Productivity Working Group - This group, which included producers from across the science and technology program areas, as well as other producers that have a strong interest in breeding herd productivity and allied industry representatives, met during a separate meeting in Dallas to discuss a multidisciplinary approach to improving the U.S. herd’s sow-lifetime productivity. The group discussed the road map to achieve the specific research needs of what would be a multi-year effort. The end goal is a 30 percent improvement in sow-lifetime productivity over the next seven years.

"We know that the pork checkoff's involvement helps spur advances in science, but what's particularly gratifying is how this investment in research helps make a difference in how farmers produce food in an efficient and socially responsible way," says Everett Forkner, a producer from Richards, Mo., and NPB president.

Completed Checkoff-funded research results are available here. pork.org.

Source: National Pork Board