"We had a very good year in 2011 on behalf of pork producers and their pork checkoff," says Everett Forkner, National Pork Board president regarding efforts in the past year and looking ahead to 2012.

This week (Jan. 11-13), NPB leaders will meet in Chicago with leaders of the Illinois Pork Producers Association, continuing the tradition of starting the year meeting with state producer representatives on their home turf.

In 2011, "we launched a new brand campaign for pork; got some great news when USDA, using research spearheaded by the pork checkoff, lowered the recommended cooking temperature for fresh pork cuts from 160 F to 145 F; celebrated the 25th anniversary of the pork checkoff; completed our project to identify pork production's carbon footprint; and saw several major restaurant chains add pork items to their menus,” he added. "We can celebrate those successes, but we have a lot of work ahead of us if we're going to maintain our focus on continuous improvement."

"Issues confronting pork producers can vary quite a bit based on geography," Forkner says. He points to the fact that Illinois producers live and work in a state dominated by Chicago’s nearly 3 million consumers. Pork producers in both Illinois and Indiana have approached NPB to consider financially supporting a proposed pork production educational center that would be constructed adjacent to an existing dairy education center in Fair Oaks, Ind. The site is less than 50 miles from Chicago.

This week, NPB members will travel to the Fair Oaks Dairy Adventure Education Center to learn more about the proposal that is designed to give consumers an up-close look at a working hog farm. The board has commissioned a marketing and business analysis of the proposal and will hear the results of that analysis during the visit.

While in Chicago, NPB also will meet with McDonald's executives at the company's headquarters.

"McDonald's is a major customer of the pork industry, so we're all eager to learn about how McDonald's planning might impact pork production," Forkner says. "Our foodservice staff works closely with McDonald's to develop pork menu items, but farmers don't always understand the complexities of getting new products on the menus. This meeting will give us a better look at that.”

While in Chicago, NPB will meet with dairy checkoff colleagues at Dairy Management, Inc. Forkner points out that both organizations have focused on improving environmental sustainability, so the meeting offers an opportunity to compare notes and to learn how dairy farmers are planning to allocate their checkoff resources in years ahead.

During NPB's business meeting on Friday morning the producers will meet with the staff of Schafer Condon Carter, the advertising agency that created pork's new marketing campaign. The board will review preliminary results on the effectiveness of the new Pork. Be inspiredcampaign launched last spring. "Early results have been very promising," Forkner notes.

Also on Friday, the board is expected to:

  • Review results of the annual pork producer benchmark survey.
  • Review the 2012 Producer Communications Plan.
  • Receive a task force report regarding potential improvements in the industry's Pork Quality Assurance Plus program.
  • Analyze reports from NPB staff that visited more than 20 pork producers around the country in 2011 to assess industry needs and the pork checkoff’s role.

Meetings of the National Pork Board are open to the public. Those wishing to attend should contact Lorraine Garner, lgarner@pork.org, (515) 223-2600.

Source: National Pork Board