IPVS: MSD Animal Health Explains How to Build Consumer Trust in the Pork Industry

IRELAND - The 24th International Pig Veterinary Society (IPVS) Congress was held in Dublin, Ireland, from June 7-10, 2016, simultaneously with the 8th European Symposium of Porcine Health Management. MSD Animal Health (known as Merck Animal Health in the USA and Canada) sponsored the event and presented the latest state-of-the-art technologies in pig health. They were also on hand to help the pig industry and to deliver high quality animal protein to the global market, writes Nuria Martínez Herráez, Editor of ThePigSite's Spanish sister site ElSitioPorcino.
calendar icon 17 June 2016
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The 24th International Pig Veterinary Society Congress provided a forum for global swine industry professionals. For four days, relevant topics to the pig industry were presented and discussed at the RDS in Dublin, such as animal welfare, prevention and treatments to several important pig diseases, pig nutrition, pig reproduction and genetics, etc.

As part as its commitment to the pig industry, MSD Animal Health hosted a satellite symposium on June 9 titled “Building Consumer Trust in the Global Pork Industry - Starts Here.” The symposium explored the relationship between the swine industry and pork consumers, and how veterinarians can contribute positively to this relationship.

Two leading industry experts were invited to present their insights on how to build consumer trust in the global pork industry, a key aspect for modern animal protein industries in a more-than-ever globalised world where consumers claim to know more on how their food is produced.

J.J. Jones, from The Center for Food Integrity, highlighted food industry needs to find ways to better communicate with consumers in order to regain their lost trust. This better communication would show consumers that, in many cases, industry values in aspects such as animal welfare, food safety, environmental impact are identical to consumers' values.

According to J.J. Jones, nowadays consumers are asking more and more questions - they want to know more on how food is produced, why it is produced, which technologies are used and why. In not few occasions, either in one-to-one conversations or social platforms, professionals working in the pork industry or food industry will face comments from consumers questioning if the current food production system is adequate.

He adds that this leads to an opportunity for the industry to better communicate about why it is doing what it is doing and why consumers should trust that what the industry is doing is for their best interest, either when we talk about consumers, animals or environmental impact.

J.J. Jones pointed out that the current industry's communication goal should not be to persuade nor to educate consumers on what they do but to embrace their skepticism, realising their concerns on the food systems are real as so it provides an opportunity to share industry values with consumers.

In addition, he insisted on transparency as a key aspect to gain consumers trust. According to J.J.Jones, transparency on policies or practices regarding hot topics for the food industry such as food safety, impact on food health, animal welfare, labour/human rights, business ethics and environmental impact is no longer optional but compulsory to build consumer trust.

Following J.J.Jones, Enric Marco, swine veterinarian from Marco Vetgroup, delved further into what a swine vet's role is in building consumer trust.

Mr Marco explained that today's pork perception by society is on avoiding eating, as there is lots of information that is easily found online on why this meat (or even any meat) should be avoided in a healthy diet. Since nowadays many people go online to look for information on websites, this could be their only source of information, even if it is not always well-founded.

In Mr Marco's words, swine vets can help just by doing their job. This means implementing good management practices such as ensuring a good exterior image of a farm and a clean environment in the farm along with keeping the right stocking densities and ensuring a good environment in the production system.

Also, the chance to help farmers on how to operate their systems well is in the vets' hands, since this could affect the health of their animals and, when problems arise in pigs', giving a good diagnosis and the correct dose to those animals would also help on swine vets' task of building trust. To sum up: do things in the proper way.

By comparing a farm to a fancy restaurant where the kitchen is open and visible to customers, who would see a clean and tidy place which reinforces their confidence in the restaurant, Marco illustrated the idea of keeping a farm which should be available for a visit every single day of the year, without fearing someone coming around to see how animals are kept or how food is produced in it.

Marco also emphasises that vets need to show things they are doing right, such as antibiotic reduction, so society can see vets are working in the direction consumers are demanding, even if that is not an easy task to be achieved.

Along with this Symposium, MSD Animal Health had several abstracts accepted for oral presentations that cover a broad topic range. In addition, the company had an impressive number of studies about scientific advancements made in swine health to present at the congress: more than 60 posters cover various aspects of Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome virus (PRRSv), Porcine Circovirus type 2 (PCV2), IDAL system, diagnostics and reproductive performance.

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