No question that pork producers are facing many challenges today, and many are originating off the farm. To address issues that relate to how hogs are raised on the farm and to build customer trust, the National Pork Producers Council and the National Pork Board are joining forces to implement an umbrella program that embraces the idea of "responsible pork production."

The two pork industry groups rolled out the initiative at last week's World Pork Expo in Des Moines. "It builds on past industry programs," says R.C. Hunt, a North Carolina pork producer and chairman of the advisory group. "The plan is to illustrate who we are; what we stand for; and emphasis our core values. It all boils down to developing trust among our customers."

Industry programs like Pork Quality Assurance Plus, the Transport Quality Assurance Program, Use Antibiotics Responsibly and the new Ethical Principles are examples of efforts already underway to inform customers and build their trust. "It's not about doing something new," says Gene Nemechek, DVM, located in Arkansas, "it's defining what producers do day in and day out and how we effect others."

He outlined the Ethical Principles:

  • Provide a safe food product
  • Protect and promote animal well-being on the farm
  • Safeguard land and natural resources
  • Protect and ensure public health
  • Provide safe work environments for workers and ensure that they follow the ethical code
  • Help contribute to a better way of life in the communities in which pork producers work and reside

Mike Wegner, with NPB, outlined the four "key components" or customers that the "responsible pork production" effort will target:

1) Industry alignment, or as he outlined it -- the producer, processor/packer segments. "The point is that they understand and buy into the industry's Ethical Principles," he says. The effort will include and involve state pork producer associations.

2) The brand segment -- or retailers. "We need to have a dialogue with them about social responsibility, the challenges they face and real pork production activities," Wegner says. 

3) Legislators and regulators

4) Consumers

Wegner points out that the brand segment and legislators/regulators are the first target.

"Our goal is to show them that the industry is committed to them, the animal and to responsible production," says Nemechek.

Dallas Hockman, with NPPC, says part of this new effort is to expand interaction and provide concise, focused education and information programs and material for the key components. "They want a defense mechanism so that they know when activists are telling them something that's not right," he adds. "Again, at the heart of this effort is the need and desire to build trust."

As for funding to see this through, Wegner points out that NPPC and NPB are sharing the expenses. "It also is an example of how the two groups can share and capitalize on their strengths for the industry," he adds.