Just months after adopting a new five-year strategic plan, the National Pork Board is busy implementing the plan's vision, National Pork Board President Tim Bierman told reporters Wednesday at World Pork Expo in Des Moines.

"Through the Pork Checkoff, we've set our sights on "Leading a World-Class Food Industry," and I'm already beginning to see some evidence of making that happen," said Bierman, a pork producer from Larrabee, Iowa. "If you look at the three areas of focus in that plan - helping farmers produce hogs in a socially responsible manner; refreshing the image of pork to increase consumer demand; and pursuing strategies to remain competitive globally - you can see some of the specific steps to implement the plan and its vision."

Bierman said the industry's We Care initiative is helping pork producers demonstrate their commitment to socially responsible production. He said one of the most visible ways pork producers do that is through the Pork Quality Assurance Plus® certification program.

"PQA Plus helps assure the world we're producing a safe and wholesome product and incorporates animal care and well-being principles. PQA Plus was introduced three years ago at World Pork Expo," Bierman said, "and I am proud to announce that we are very close to having 50,000 producers certified by June 30. It's quite a remarkable achievement and demonstrates the commitment producers make each day to producing safe food in a responsible way.

"We still have some work to do because we've set some ambitious goals to complete site assessments of all our farms by the end of this year," Bierman said. "But I am proud of my fellow producers' commitment to this important program."

Significant progress also is being made toward the goal of refreshing and repositioning the pork brand, said Ceci Snyder, the Pork Checkoff's vice president of domestic marketing.

"We have just finished the early stages of our consumer research, and one insight I can share is that pork lovers see the world as full of possibilities," Snyder said. "One not surprising finding is that The Other White Meat is certainly well-known. But we have also found that it is so familiar that it blends into the background. It's not motivating our customers to buy more pork.

"How the Other White Meat factors into our new brand position is still being explored," she said. "We know for certain that we will protect the Other White Meat's important heritage both in marketing and legally."

Snyder said that based on consumer research, the new target audience is likely to be consumers who already are medium to heavy pork users. Members of the target audience also are more likely to be women who are married and have children.

Snyder noted the Pork Checkoff will continue to advertise pork between now and the end of the year, but that it will be "transitional" advertising and not the new brand position. "Between now and next March at Pork Forum, when we'll be ready to show you the brand evolution, some of the advertising and marketing materials you'll see will feature the pork logo with the word "pork" only, along with TheOtherWhiteMeat.com."

She said additional consumer research is planned this summer and there likely will be a test of the new brand position with a target audience this fall.

Bierman also announced the launch of the redesigned pork.org Web site. The site, designed to deliver Pork Checkoff information to producers, went "live" on Monday.

The National Pork Board has responsibility for Checkoff-funded research, promotion and consumer information projects and for communicating with pork producers and the public. Through a legislative national Pork Checkoff, pork producers invest $0.40 for each $100 value of hogs sold. The Pork Checkoff funds national and state programs in advertising, consumer information, retail and foodservice marketing, export market promotion, production improvement, technology, swine health, pork safety and environmental management. For information on Checkoff-funded programs, pork producers can call the Pork Checkoff Service Center at (800) 456-7675 or check the Internet at www.pork.org.