Everyone involved in the pig industry needs to be “Talking Pork.” This includes not only industry leaders but pig producers everywhere, as well as representatives from aligned industries.

We all need to promote pork and explain how it is produced on a regular basis in a united effort to influence governments and other regulatory bodies, as well as consumers. While it is vital the pig industry continues to invest heavily in research and development to modernize pig production methods, improve feed efficiency and meat quality, as well as tackle animal welfare and health issues head on, it cannot afford to forget the importance of lobbying at all levels.

Making pig farming sexy
 At the 2012 annual congress of the European Pig Producers Club in Vilnius, Lithuania, a local pig farmer, Claus Baltsersen, asked why the industry is always on the defense and “why do pig farmers accept being compared to the worst criminals every day?”

Baltsersen called for concerted action “to make pig farming sexy again” and received an enthusiastic response from the delegates, who came from about 19 different countries. Several attendees said this could only happen, if the industry stood together to promote the business of pig production. Farmers must open units to show people what the pig industry is already doing to mitigate its impact on the environment, improve animal welfare and fight disease—and what it needed to continue moving forward.

Agreeing that the pig industry should be doing much more to promote itself, rather than defending its actions, a delegate from Germany said: “We have to think about new ideas. Maybe we should invite someone from the outside into our business to help us promote it better. We must tell people who we are and what we are and take the initiative in the debate about the future.”

Most delegates at this conference agreed with these sentiments and I have heard similar comments at other pig producer events. But the pig industry must take action now and put its case forward to the people who matter and tell them what the industry is doing and what it wants.

Yes, there are several national bodies and regional organizations already working hard locally to promote the sale of pork and reduce farm odors, for example, but what we really need is for all our organizations to join into one big global campaign. This includes representatives from aligned industries to take up the cudgels for the pig industry and make pig farming sexy again, attract new blood and take our rightful position in the agricultural world as it strives to feed the growing population.

Producing more with less
 The new Pig and the Environment report launched at the 2012 World Meat Congress in Paris in June includes 16 pig producing countries and illustrates some of the ways they are addressing the challenge of “producing more with less,” as well as sharing measures being taken to reduce the impact on the environment. This could be a useful start.

These countries include China, the United States, Denmark, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Russia and Australia, collectively account for 78 percent of the world’s pork production.

As Paddy Moore, chairman of the International Meat Secretariat (IMS) sustainable meat committee, says in the introduction of the first report: “There are different approaches to Life Cycle Assessment and there are different approaches to recognizing the positive contribution that pig production plays in using surplus human food that would otherwise be wasted.

“In order to help resolve these issues, IMS is planning to work in partnership with FAO along with governments and NGO representatives to benchmark and monitor the environmental performance of livestock food chains. This report illustrates some of the ways that countries are addressing the challenges … all of them demonstrate very clearly that meat production and processing is part of the solution in satisfying the needs of the world’s consumers in the years to come.”

The report also points out that the nature of pork production and processing is changing in line with changing consumers and the competitive pressures on the market. The scale of production has generally increased as pig producers seek greater efficiency.

In North and South America and parts of Asia this has been driven by increased vertical integration and organization in the supply chain. In Europe there is greater specialization and cooperation among producers, while in Russia and China restructuring and modernization is being driven greatly by government policy.

The drive for greater efficiency is also being facilitated by improvements and uptake of technology, especially in pig breeding and the increased availability and trading of feed, especially vegetable proteins such as soy, it adds.

This ambitious initiative shows what the pig industry can do if it is prepared to stand up and work with others to promote its positive contribution to global well being. Drop me a line, I would like to hear what you think.