resident’s message
Sustainability: Managing the moments of truth

Herbert “Herb” Stein was a free-market economist who was probably most famous as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under presidents Nixon and Ford. Mr Stein was also a journalist, comfortable commenting on a very broad range of topics. Whether he was supporting change in economic policy in the Wall Street Journal or penning a personal advice column under the pseudonym of “Dear Prudence,” he did not let strict ideology stand in the way of common sense. He is probably best remembered for Herbert Stein’s Law which stated “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.”1 If nothing else, he was concise!

Sustainability is achieved by accommodating continual re-use of resources, and it is becoming increasingly important in promoting pork. While the notion of sustainability is important to all generations of consumers and policy makers, it is of particular importance to the Millennial generation. There are 75 million US Millennials, and this group wields significant consumer clout. Brand loyalty is much more fleeting in this group. Their purchasing decisions are more about social responsibility and sustainability than price. As food producers, we have some very serious challenges ahead of us. The Food and Agriculture Organization is predicting that if global population grows to 9.1 billion by 2050, then global food production will need to rise by 70%. Meat production alone will need to grow by 200 million tonnes to a total of 470 million tonnes. It should be no wonder that the Millennials and Generation Z are concerned about sustainability.

The US pork supply chain has stepped up to the plate in the past. The US pork supply has almost doubled over the past 50 years. At the same time, there has been a 78% decrease in the total amount of land required to produce pork. This gain has been associated with improved crop yields, feed milling, ration formulation, and increased by-product feed use (eg, dried distiller’s grain solubles). Water consumption has dropped from 2.7 gallons to 1.6 gallons per pound of dressed carcass. On a pound-for-pound basis, the US pork industry’s carbon footprint has been reduced from 3.8 kg per CO2e to 2.5 kg per CO2e per pound of dressed carcass.2 We have a great track record in making better use of resources.

We need to communicate these and other good news stories, as well as our values, to our customers. The We Care Program jointly supported by the National Pork Board and the National Pork Producers Council acknowledges the responsibilities of producers and their supply-chain partners by affirming the responsibility to produce safe food, protect and promote animal well-being, ensure practices to protect public health, safeguard natural resources, and provide a safe work environment that is consistent with other ethical principles and contributes to a better quality of life in our communities. Consistently delivering on these responsibilities is a challenge.

In the early 1980’s, Jan Carlzon was tasked with developing and executing a plan to turn around the money-losing Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS). Instead of instituting cost-cutting measures, he elected to improve the customer experience by focusing on what he called the “moments of truth.” Carlzon explained, “Any time a customer comes into contact with any aspect of a business, however remote, is an opportunity to form an impression.”3 And these impressions would determine whether or not the customer would return. In Carlzon’s eyes, it was the responsibility of everyone at SAS to deliver on the promises made by the company. These customer-service principles have stood the test of time.

In pork production, we are presented daily with many moments of truth. As veterinarians, we have an opportunity to influence the outcomes of many aspects of pork production that are important to the consumer. We assist with delivering food safety through PQA Plus. A One Health approach is important in protecting public health. Maintaining herd health allows for improved feed efficiency and welfare. As we work with farm staff we have an opportunity to lead by example in promoting workplace health and safety. Carlzon also said, “An individual without information can’t take responsibility. An individual with information can’t help but take responsibility.”3 Our work as educators is important for industry sustainability.

Herb Stein’s Law probably works best as a reminder that we do not have the luxury of being complacent.1 The reality is we will need to continue to adapt to a number of challenges in order to achieve sustainability. The AASV plays an important role in supporting the process. This support, however, could not be delivered without our great staff and dedicated AASV volunteers who give so willingly of their time. Thank you! As AASV members, we are woven into the fabric of the pork supply chain, and as such have an opportunity to influence outcomes. How will you respond to your next moment of truth?


1. Stein H. Herb Stein’s Unfamiliar Quotations. Slate (magazine). The Slate Group. May 16, 1997. Available at Accessed 26 April 2016.

2. A 50 Year Comparison of the Carbon Footprint and Resource Use of the US Swine Herd: 1959 – 2009, final-5-22-12.pdf. Accessed 26 April 2016.

3. Jan Carlzon Quotes. A to Z Quotes. Available at Accessed 26 April 2016.

George Charbonneau, DVM