DES MOINES, Iowa -- At the World Pork Expo, the National Pork Board shared plans for a new common industry audit platform for pork producers, packers and processors. It will use the existing Pork Quality Assurance Plus (PQA Plus) program as its foundation.

"As an industry, we know that our consumers are demanding a higher level of integrity from the pork industry's quality assurance processes and procedures," said Chris Novak, chief executive officer of the National Pork Board. "We are encouraged by the broad support we have received from all our industry's partners to develop the framework for this process."

The goal of the process is to provide consumers greater assurance of the care taken by producers and processors to improve animal care and food safety. The initial concept of the audit was introduced at the 2013 National Pork Industry Forum.

"This approach has never been more critical," said Emily Erickson, a member of the Industry Audit Task Force and a pig farmer from Jackson, Minn. "As pork producers, we know that we must do more to reassure consumers about our commitment to improving animal care. At the same time, we need a clear and consistent approach that can ensure that we're doing the right thing every day for our animals, our farmers and our customers. This new framework delivers on that promise."

The audit is currently in the final stages of beta testing in the field and is expected to be implemented later this summer.

"What's exciting about this common audit framework is that it has truly been the industry coming together to better serve the needs of farmers, customers and consumers," Novak said. "This is not a new Pork Checkoff program, but rather an initiative that will be led by producers and packers working together to enhance animal care. We're grateful to the packers who have been members of this task force for their leadership with this effort."

The Industry Audit Task Force includes producers and veterinarians representing the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, as well as packer representatives from Cargill, Farmland/Smithfield, Hatfield, Hormel, JBS, Seaboard, Triumph and Tyson.