US – Three concepts: choice, transparency and integrity are what distinguish the relationship that US pork producers have with their customers, said Dallas Hockman, during the World Pork Expo in Iowa. Chris Wright, senior editor, writes from Des Moines.
Dallas Hockman is the vice president of industry relations for the NPPC, National Pork Producers Council. During a press conference he emphasized the very positive contact that the pork producers have had with their customers in regards to the issues facing the industry. Pork producers have always had a good relationship with meat buyers in the US, but the effort now is to engage the top level corporate managers in the retail and food service industries.
Mr Hockman said that they have found an open and engaging attitude among the client companies, and those companies really want to know how pork is produced. The NPPC is always very open with customers and tells them how and why pork is produced in the US. The era of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is long over, he said.
He said that while US pork production has been very good, the industry practices and technologies are top notch, US pork producers have not done a good job in getting the message out. Therefore food retailers don’t know how pork is really produced.
Mr Hockman stated that there are three key points they emphasize when they meet with customers: choice, transparency and integrity.
Choice: US pork producers, and the NPPC, support choice. US pork producers use varied production systems aimed at the various market segments in the US. There is a wide variety of choice available for the consumers, Mr Hockman noted.
Transparency: The need for transparency by US pork producers is critical. They need to invite the customers to the farm to see how things are really done. US pork producers need to tell the sustainability story, since sustainability has become such an important issue in recent years.
Integrity: The key here, Mr Hockman emphasised, is integrity by all, pork producers as well as the customers. Mr. Hockman stated that animal welfare and food safety should not be selling points for the retailers or the food service industry. Good animal welfare and uncompromised food safety should be the standards of the industry, and are not meant to give one customer selling advantage over another. The integrity concept includes traceability.
Mr Hockman noted that when talking to customers, the number one question they get is about supply availability and the second question is about price. Customer companies want to know that there will be a reliable supply of the product, and of course they want competitive pricing. Once the customers understand how pork is really produced and the challenges involved in this production, they have a better understanding of the supply and price issues and are more willing to work with the industry.