Pork Competes Through Promotion and High Quality

US - The US pork industry and the Pork Checkoff continue to work for better prices for pork producers. Despite challenges, domestic pork demand is estimated up 4 per cent in 2009.
calendar icon 15 February 2010
clock icon 5 minute read

“We've made an impact with our promotions and activities going on within the pork industry,“ said Tim Bierman, a pork producer from Larrabee, Iowa, and National Pork Board president, during an interview at the Minnesota Pork Congress.

All pork producers and importers of pigs and pork products contribute 40 cents for every $100 market value, according to Minnesota Farm Guide. The Pork Checkoff promotes pork in the US and abroad.

Following misinformation surrounding H1N1 flu, the National Pork Board approved a supplemental budget initiative to promote pork last summer.

“The consumer price is very reasonable now,“ said Dianne Bettin, chairperson of the National Pork Board, domestic marketing committee. “We bought radio advertising in Kroger markets that contributed to the terrific results.“

Ms Bettin is a pork producer from Truman, Minnesota, and completed two terms on the 15-member National Pork Board.

“We want to move more pork at a good price, so the producer can benefit from higher revenue,“ she said. “The increase in pork movement in 2009 was a combination the Checkoff and many in the industry working together, plus lower prices that caught the consumers' attention.“

The domestic marketing committee oversaw a domestic investment of $21 million in checkoff dollars in 2009.

Domestic marketing was cut by 20 per cent for 2010 due to lower pork prices.

Ms Bettin said the committee is always looking for ways to move pork products through the food chain. They work with packers, processors, retailers, food service, media, health professionals and consumers.

“We are getting ready to hire a brand new agency and exploring some fun marketing ways to move pork,“ she added. “We are working on a brand that will move the needle on pork consumption.“

Pork. The Other White Meat is one of the best-known advertising lines in history, but consumer research shows it may no longer be relevant.

The Checkoff also conducts research on many topics, including production methods, product development and environmental solutions.

In 2009, the United States processed 1.99 billion pounds of pork - down 3 per cent from 2008. A full 79 per cent is processed for ham, bacon, sausage and more. The remaining 21 per cent is sold as fresh pork.

As the US economy recovers, pork retail prices are also expected to improve, Ms Bettin said.

“You don't see a lot of people not eating protein,“ she said. “They just move to less expensive protein sources.“

Minnesota's Taste of Elegance event encourages Minnesota's top chefs to create the best pork dishes. The event showcases the versatility of pork and the creativity and competitive spirit of chefs.

The 2010 Minnesota Pork Board's Taste of Elegance awarded David Vlach, first place for his entry, “Spiced Slow-Cooked Pork Shank with Gemolata and Black Beluga Lentil Tomato Stew.“ Chefs also used pork shoulder, pork liver, pork butt, sweet breads and more.

“There are some fun cuts out there - the white tablecloth chefs are starting to do a lot with pork belly,“ added Ms Bettin.

Funds from the pork checkoff are also used to help consumers learn that pork doesn't have to be cooked to 180 degrees.

The USDA says pork must have an internal temperature of 160 degrees.

“As people learn to cook pork right, it just starts flying off the grocery shelves,“ said Mr Bettin.

Mexico and Japan continued to purchase US pork in 2009, and the National Pork Board contracts with the US Meat Export Federation for international promotion and marketing.

The US exported 814.3 million pounds to Mexico from January-September 2009, worth $547.7 million. That was an increase in value by 15 per cent over the first three quarters of 2008.

The value of US pork exports to Japan, $1.17 billion, increased by 3 per cent in the first three quarters of 2009 over 2008.

Restoring trade to China remains a top priority for US pork producers, said Mr Bierman.

China was one of the United States' fastest growing markets in 2008, and accounted for $560 million in US exports. Then in May, nearly two-thirds of China's consumers stopped eating pork in the early days of H1N1 news. China then stopped all pork imports from the United States.

“China is clearly a key export market for US pork producers,“ said Mr Bierman. “We look forward to the market again being accessible to shipments of US pork. We have to fix trade barriers with Russia and China, and prevent that from happening again.“

The National Pork Board turns political matters relating to trade barriers over to the National Pork Producers Council.

Mr Bierman added that should a free trade agreement be reached with South Korea, US pork producers could expect to see an increase market price of $10 per hog.

“Free trade agreements would help,“ he said.

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