News from the National Pork Board

Industry meets to discuss physical hazards in pork

Pork CheckoffThe Pork Checkoff, with the aid of the National Institute for Animal Agriculture, convened with industry participants in Kansas City, Missouri, to address the issue of needles and other physical hazards in pork products. The meeting follows the 2000 Needle Summit, from which the National Pork Board developed an educational campaign to emphasize the importance of minimizing physical contaminants in pork.

The Needle Summit brought industry together to discuss the direction each of these key sectors has taken since the last meeting and what actions each will pursue to continue providing a safe pork product for consumers. In contrast to the 2000 summit, the meeting addressed issues with needles and other physical hazards in market sows, as well as in market pigs. Participants included pork producers, veterinarians, packers and processors, researchers, needle manufacturers, needle-free vaccination technology suppliers, metal detection and X-ray equipment manufacturers, and a representative from the Canadian pork industry.

The summit addressed progress since the 2000 summit, including the impact of the Pork Checkoff's "One is Too Many" awareness campaign, which was delivered in cooperation with the American Association of Swine Veterinarians.

A pork producer from Iowa who is a member of the Pork Checkoff's Pork Safety Committee addressed her concerns with the lack of a standardized method to identify animals that are believed to carry broken needles and discussed her perspective, as a producer, on how to make an awareness campaign successful. Some of the issues that need to be addressed by the campaign are proper needle handling and disposal and ensuring awareness and training of everyone performing vaccinations and injectable treatments.

A pork production company at the meeting shared experiences and standard operating procedures to reduce the number of needles that reach the processing plants. These procedures include immediate humane euthanasia of animals carrying broken needles, a zero-tolerance measure for employees who do not identify animals carrying broken needles, and an employee incentive program to encourage identification of animals at risk of carrying broken needles.

Packers and processors, including those who process market sows, echoed the producer's views in the need for a standardized method of identifying suspect animals. The development of a centralized aggregate reporting mechanism and ear tags of a specific color or with a warning message were considered as possibilities.

The Canadian industry representative shared her experience and research into the development of the Canadian Quality Assurance (CQA) program, which addresses the prevention of physical hazards in pork. Among other things, two processors in Canada require their suppliers to be CQA certified and support an educational campaign, "If They're Bent, They'll Break." Research is being performed in Alberta to evaluate needle-free technology for vaccination and treatment of pigs, and alternative injection sites in sows.

Needle manufacturers, needle-free technology suppliers, and physical-hazard detection equipment manufacturers also discussed their technologies, many of which are currently in use within the industry. Needles that are more detectable, less likely to break, and lubricated represent some of the advances made in the needle industry. Equipment manufacturers discussed food industry-specific X-ray technology and metal detection equipment that is more sensitive, and described equipment layouts that make the technology more efficient.

The National Pork Board will use the discussions from the summit to develop and enhance Checkoff-funded programs that raise awareness of the issue of physical-hazards in pork. Physical-hazard contamination may not gain the attention that other issues in the pork industry have, due to the low occurrence of incidents at the consumer level; however, maintaining and continually improving practices and technology are crucial to ensuring a safe product for consumers and a positive image for the pork industry.

"Take Care" program

The Pork Checkoff's "Take Care - Use Antibiotics Responsibly" program was developed to encourage producers and their veterinarians to follow specific principles and guidelines to minimize the risk of antibiotic resistance. The following five principles are at the center of the Take Care program:

  • Take appropriate steps to decrease the need for the application of antibiotics.
  • Assess the advantages and disadvantages of all uses of antibiotics.
  • Use antibiotics only when they provide measurable benefits.
  • Complete the Pork Quality Assurance Program and fully implement the management practices described for responsible use of animal health products in daily operations.
  • Follow the Responsible Use Guidelines that are the basis for the Take Care program.

This Checkoff-funded program is an example of industry-wide cooperation. It was developed by pork producers through the National Pork Board's Pork Safety Committee and the Pharmaceutical Issues Task Force, a group that represents the American Association of Swine Veterinarians and the National Pork Board. In addition, the program has input from the pharmaceutical industry, regulatory and public health institutions, and universities from across the United States.

Producers and veterinarians have received the "Take Care - Use Antibiotics Responsibly" text and electronic versions through the mail. If you have any questions about the Take Care - Use Antibiotics Responsibly program, or know somebody who needs a copy of this material, contact Liz Wagstrom at the National Pork Board at liz.wagstrom, or call 515-223-2600.

Swine Welfare Assurance Program gaining support from the industry

Recently, Tyson Fresh Meats pledged its continued commitment to animal welfare by publicly announcing its support for the Swine Welfare Assurance Program (SWAP). Dr Kellye Pfalzgraf, DVM, manager of Tyson's Office of Animal Well-Being, said, "Tyson Fresh Meats has always placed importance on being a good steward of the livestock we buy, and we believe the independent producers who supply us are equally committed. However, it's becoming increasingly important for all of us in this industry to document our animal welfare efforts. That's why we support the SWAP program and encourage the nation's pork producers to do the same."

Food companies that buy pork have conducted third-party animal welfare audits of Tyson processing facilities for years. Some customers are now preparing to expand this requirement to the independent pork producers who sell hogs to meat processors. In anticipation of this change, Tyson is encouraging the immediate and unified participation of the industry in SWAP.

SWAP is a voluntary, science-based program for pork producers to objectively assess and benchmark the care and welfare of their pigs. SWAP consists of nine Care and Well-Being Principles that include the review of on-farm records and facilities and observation of individual pigs.

Results of a SWAP assessment can also be used to identify issues on-farm that may become welfare, health, or production problems. SWAP assessments are opportunities for farm managers and employees to analyze their health and production practices with a certified SWAP educator, which may help them to identify previously missed opportunities to improve the welfare of pigs.

It is increasingly apparent that the pork industry's customers have an interest in production operations that demonstrate their care about the well-being of the animals they raise and that are prepared to show their swine welfare efforts. SWAP can be used as a tool to assure the industry's customers and the general public that the pork industry is aware of their concerns and our pigs' welfare.

2005 plan of work

The National Pork Board has approved a $53.7 million budget for 2005 that will allow for the first major change in the pork industry's consumer marketing program since the "Pork. The Other White Meat" campaign was launched in 1986. The new budget also includes support for an industry-wide effort to map the swine genome and a significant research investment in swine health.

The Checkoff-funded "Pork. The Other White Meat" campaign was identified as one of the five most recognized taglines in American advertising by a national survey conducted by the integrated marketing communications program at Northwestern University in 2000.1 The new budget will be used to give new energy to the advertising campaign and help pork producers build on the 3.4% increase in consumer demand and the double-digit increases in exports the industry experienced this year. The new advertising campaign will be unveiled in March at the 2005 National Pork Industry Forum in Orlando, Florida.

Another significant amount of the budget for 2005 is a $500,000 commitment to the Pig Genome Sequencing Project, with an anticipated request for another $250,000 in 2006. The project is coordinated by the International Swine Genome Sequencing Consortium and has the goals of sharing the information available around the world and avoiding redundancy in the efforts of researchers already working on mapping the genome. More than eight countries are represented in this consortium, which was formed in 2003. Participants include researchers, academics, and private organizations.

Other critical issues identified by the board for 2005 include increasing demand for pork both domestically and internationally; improving the consumer's pork-eating experience; developing new industry leaders; implementing an issues management process; establishing industry standards in environmental and animal health areas; and positively impacting the pork industry's image with local communities.


*1. Caywood C. The Slogans of Champions. Inside Medill News. September 15, 2000. Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University. Available at Accessed December 22, 2004.

* Non-refereed reference.