Why do pigs roll in the mud? How many pigs are on your farm? What do pigs eat? Do pigs come from eggs?

Minnesota pork producers are being asked these questions, along with more complex inquiries regarding animal care practices, manure management and confinement housing at the Minnesota Pork Board (MPB) and Pork Checkoff funded Oink Outings. The MPB introduced Oink Outings this summer as a way to listen and respond to consumers' questions and concerns about raising pigs. Research shows a vast majority of Minnesotans trust livestock farmers and veterinarians
to make the appropriate decisions on livestock care. This same group, however, also expressed a modest level of concern over farm animal treatment, which could influence their decision to support additional government regulation of animal care practices.

The overall purpose behind the Oink Outings is to give those who raise pigs a place to meet consumers, to hear their concerns and to show that pork producing families share similar food safety and animal care values. The outings take two forms: the Oink Outings booth and Oink Outings tours.

This summer’s seven Oink Outings booth events took place at urban and suburban venues typically attended by moms who are well educated with higher than average incomes. When arriving at the brightly colored Oink Outings booth, kids can ‘get oinked’ with a washable pig tattoo and adults can ask the
volunteering Minnesota pig farmer questions about pork production.

To encourage questions, a component of an Oink Outing includes Ask A Farmer, Feed A Family. For each pig related question, the MPB donates one pound of ground pork to Second Harvest Food Shelf. Booth visitors also receive pork recipes, cooking information and cloth grocery bags.

MPB President Bill Crawford of Fairmont, who volunteered his time at Marketfest, a White Bear Lake community festival, said the Oink Outings are an excellent way to hear from consumers.

“I learned that farmers and consumers want the same things when it comes to food,” he said. “We both want healthy, nutritious pork for our families and we both want to be sure the pigs receive the best care possible.” To view several of the questions, the farmers' replies and photos from the events, go to
www.facebook.com/oinkoutings.

The six Oink Outings farm tours paired three to four Twin Cities moms who are community leaders or social media bloggers with Minnesota pork producers and a metro area chef.

The day begins at the chef’s restaurant with a pork recipe demonstration and meal. The group, including the pork producers hosting the tour, then travel by bus to the hog farm. The windshield time to and from the farm provides an excellent opportunity for discussion. After the tour, the moms are
encouraged to share their experience through their blogs and Facebook pages.