News from the National Pork Board

Pork Checkoff announces the launch of PQA Plus

A year-long effort to update the Pork Quality Assurance program, or PQA, the industry’s flagship food-safety program, has concluded with the launch of PQA Plus, announced at the 2007 Pork Industry Forum in Anaheim, California, on March 2.

With this revision, PQA Plus becomes an integrated food-safety and animal-well-being program. Its content includes selected PQA “Good Production Practices” and Swine Welfare Assurance Program “Care and Well-Being Principles,” as well as material from the industry’s responsible antibiotic use program, “Take Care – Use Antibiotics Responsibly.”

Customers such as McDonald’s, Burger King, Wal-Mart, and Safeway have increasingly shown interest in having assurances about the way the food products they offer are produced.

On March 14, 2005, approximately 20 participants representing pork producers, packer-processors, and some of the nation’s leading restaurants and food retailers met in Chicago to resolve animal well-being concerns to the satisfaction of the restaurants and retail companies present, the packer-processor community, and the pork production industry. The participants agreed at that first meeting that any solution would have to be workable, credible, and affordable for all parties.

Subsequent meetings of this broad-based industry animal-well-being coalition throughout 2005 and early 2006 resulted in an agreement. The agreement, carrying the signatures of all participants in the Chicago meetings as well as other supporters, was announced to producers and the public at the World Pork Expo in Des Moines, Iowa, in June 2006. In essence, the industry agreed to develop and implement a program, PQA Plus, that provided customers with assurances of food safety and animal well-being.

PQA Plus has three main components: a producer education component, an on-site assessment of animal well-being, and a third-party audit. The latter component is needed to address the program’s credibility with the industry’s customers.

The development of PQA Plus was a joint effort between producers and advisors in the Checkoff’s Animal Welfare and Pork Safety committees. Input from other producers was collected through focus groups, telephone surveys, and beta tests along the development process. A coalition technical committee, composed of advisors to the industry animal-well-being coalition, reviewed the content of the audit.

Members of AASV and others who will participate in the program as instructors and advisors shared their input by participating in beta instructor training sessions and as content reviewers throughout the program’s development.


When will PQA Plus be available to producers?

June 2007.

What are the main differences between PQA Plus and PQA?

PQA Plus adds animal well-being to the original PQA content. PQA Plus has three components: producer education (PQA Plus certification), an on-site assessment of animal well-being (required in combination with PQA Plus certification to achieve PQA Plus site status), and the opportunity for a third-party audit.

What is the difference between PQA Plus certification and PQA Plus site status?

PQA Plus certification is offered to individuals completing PQA Plus education with a PQA Plus Advisor. PQA Plus site status is given to a production site associated with a PQA Plus Certified Producer after an on-site assessment has been performed at that production site.

How is a production site defined in PQA Plus?

A production site is defined according to the definition of the National Animal Identification System. PQA Plus will use Premises Identification Numbers to record PQA Plus status of production sites.

How long are PQA Plus certification and PQA Plus site status valid?

PQA Plus producer certification and site status are valid for 3 years.

Must all producers get training and an on-site assessment?

Yes, in order to get a PQA Plus site status, producers wishing to update their PQA Plus education-certification must take the PQA Plus certification course curriculum training with a PQA Plus Advisor. This curriculum covers the material contained in PQA Plus Good Production Practises 1 through 10.

Producers wishing to obtain PQA Plus site status for their production sites must have an assessment of issues related to animal well-being at that site. Producers can request that a PQA Plus Advisor perform the on-site assessment.

Producers can also choose to self-assess their sites. To do so, they must receive training and endorsement to conduct PQA Plus site self-assessments from a PQA Plus Advisor. Results from the self-assessment must be reported to the advisor and the Pork Checkoff to achieve a PQA Plus site status.

How will the audit component of PQA Plus work?

Production sites receiving PQA Plus status will be entered into a pool from which a percentage of sites will be eligible for third-party audits. Audits are not scheduled to begin until a representative number of production sites achieve PQA Plus status. Enough sites will be audited each year to achieve a 99% confidence level that 95% of farms are in compliance with the care and well-being standards of the program.

What is the purpose of the audit?

The purpose of the audit is to ensure that the system works and that the level of well-being in pork production is improving, not to certify each operation or to find production sites out of compliance.

What happens if a producer refuses an audit or a farm fails to rectify an item out of compliance with the audit?

If a producer doesn’t address items found out of compliance during an audit, the site will lose its PQA Plus site status until appropriate corrective action is taken and verified. It is up to each individual packer to decide the consequences for animals from sites that do not have a current PQA Plus site status.

How will PQA Plus data be gathered, stored, reported, or used?

A third-party database has been retained to store all data related to site assessments, audits, or both. Only anonymous aggregate data will be made available to the Pork Checkoff. This information will be used to benchmark the state of animal well-being in the United States pork industry and to develop targeted educational or awareness programs related to animal care and well-being.

The only information stored by the Pork Checkoff will be the current certification status of individuals or PQA Plus site status of production sites.

Who will be able to train producers in PQA Plus?

Veterinarians and extension specialists or ag educators who have a BS or equivalent in animal science or related field and 2 years of recent, documentable swine production experience, and who have taken PQA Plus advisor training from a PQA Plus Trainer.

How can veterinarians obtain PQA Plus advisor training?

Veterinarians can contact the Pork Checkoff at 800-456-PORK or a PQA Plus Trainer to find out how to obtain advisor training.

Can veterinarians who previously trained and certified producers in PQA train and certify producers in PQA Plus?

Only after receiving PQA Plus advisor training. All professionals interested in training and certifying producers or assessing production sites in PQA Plus must receive PQA Plus advisor training before being able to participate as an advisor in PQA Plus.