Have your bacon and eat it too
By Trent Loos
The 2013 World Pork Expo is now in the history books and for all practical purposes, it was a tremendous success. The report is that 38 countries were represented with a total of 20,000 people in attendance. However, there are two separate groups of people I want to focus on here today: the 12 retail meat buyers representing grocery stores from around the nation and the 853 young pig enthusiasts who exhibited 2,340 pigs.
We will get to the future of the pork sector shortly, but first I want to commend the National Pork Board for organizing a retail tour that included not only the World Pork Expo itself but a visit to a modern feed mill and a large, state-of-the-art pig farm.
Chris Nowack, CEO of the Pork Board, granted me 5 minutes to give them a brief overview of what I do. I quickly explained that I started doing media work 13 years ago because I thought the consumer did not know enough about their food. Today I do it because they know too much about their food and the real problem is too much of what they know isn’t so.
It was the body language and head bobbling in agreement that really told me that this group of people has seen the light. They knew exactly what I was talking about as a result of this trip. My conversations with a few of them told me that they will go home and figure out how to do better job of educating their grocery costumers to the benefits of such things as gestation stalls and the proper use of antibiotics in food production.
As always there is no quick fix but my sense was that it was a tremendous first step in the process of re-educating the general public. As I was talking to one young lady who is a meat buyer from Florida, she mentioned the overwhelming presence of kids and their pigs.
I seized the moment to explain to her that it was not just that these kids loved to show their pigs, but that they are learning so much about life when they have a pig project. Obviously they learn the typical stuff that farm kids learn like work ethic and responsibility. They also learn about life and they learn that death with a purpose brings meaning to life, no matter how tough it is.
Then I asked her one question, “How many overweight kids did you see here?” She gave it some legitimate thought and said, “Probably two.” Yes, there were just a small handful of kids out of nearly a thousand in attendance that had a weight issue.
In taking care of a livestock project, you also learn about healthy living by providing good nutrition and exercise for your animals. Most of these kids know more about nutrition than some of the medical doctors in this country. They understand that you must feed the animal a balance of all nutrients and then exercise them daily. In the process of doing that, the kids not only burn calories themselves when they are walking their pigs but they see firsthand how healthy living works.
So in closing it was a tremendous event. Despite the fact that it wasn’t until the day after the Expo that pork prices hit a historical high of $100 per hundredweight in the meat. I believe a challenge we have is to make sure all these kids who love working with pigs truly understand the career opportunities that exist for them in the swine industry. Whether they want to continue to raise pigs or not, they can pretty much have their bacon and eat it too!
Editor’s note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.FacesOfAg.com, or email Trent at firstname.lastname@example.org.