It is truly an honor for me to serve our membership as the new president for our great association. This year our annual meeting emphasized the reality that in fact we are one world. As swine professionals, we cannot look just at what is going on in our practice area and ignore everything else. We have not only learned the value of increased awareness of world events from a business or political perspective, but also the values and health challenges of people and pigs worldwide.
We live in one world. In 2016, our association had members from 44 different countries, including the United States. What we do here in the United States has value and impact worldwide. What our colleagues do in their own countries has value and impact in the United States. We are all truly focused on helping improve the health and wellbeing of pigs throughout the world. Recent disease outbreaks have emphasized the importance of recognizing that events in Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, North Carolina, etc, will sooner or later impact the pigs in our r own state, just as any disease in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, or the Americas is of concern to the United States. The time of isolationism is history. The rich background and experiences of all our members is what makes our association strong. It is our desire and passion to help pigs and people that make us essential. Yes, I do specifically mean essential.
Pork is the most widely consumed meat in the world, although poultry is approaching us very quickly.1 This demand creates opportunity as well as some responsibilities. As veterinarians, we have taken an oath for “the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health….” All this requires us to be attentive to what is going on everywhere (nationally and internationally) so we can be better prepared. Ultimately, we are focused on producing safe pork for the consumer. This is a big responsibility, and I feel comfortable that we do an excellent job at it. The challenge comes when we have to deal with consumers. Not because we don’t like them, but today’s consumers are quite uninformed about animal agriculture, and in their desire to do the right thing, can be easily misguided by misinformation. As J. J. Jones from the Center for Food Integrity explained to us at our annual meeting, we must stay engaged and continue to gain the trust of our consumers.
Misinformation comes not only from local sources, but also from a national and sometimes even an international perspective. It is difficult for those not associated with livestock to fully understand what we are doing. Personally, I feel we have been doing our job so well that most don’t realize what we do. According to the United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, the United States has the lowest percent of consumer expenditure spent on food for the 86 selected countries reported. In 2014, for the United States, that share was 6.6% of consumer expenditures, compared to 9.2% for Canada, 11.4% for Denmark, 15.6% for Brazil, 23.3% for Mexico, 30.7% for India, and 56.6% for Nigeria.2 When looking at the United States alone, our total dollars of per capita food expenditure (standardized to 1988 prices) has increased by just over 37% from $1651 in 1959 to more than $2251 in 2014, while the food expenditure by families and individuals (both at home and away from home) as a share of disposable personal income has decreased by 39.4%, from 18.8% to 11.4%.2 With less income being spent on food (a critical expenditure for life), more income has become available to help support the economy in other areas. That is, most people don’t realize the major role we all play in keeping food costs down so that Americans can live the lives they have become accustomed to. This is also happening while we continue to provide some of the safest food in the world. It has become so safe that everyone has taken it for granted.
Are we sure we are providing proper animal care and wellbeing? Absolutely! It is a continuous improvement process. It is ever changing. Swine veterinarians are known to be progressive and focused on the science. With our annual meeting just over, we must all now go and use this knowledge to continue promoting the health and wellbeing of pigs and a safe pork supply not only in the United States, but worldwide. I look forward to working for you this next year as president of this great organization. Keep up your great work!
1. Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. Food Outlook – Biannual Report on Global Food Markets. October 2016. Available at http://www.fao.org/3/a-i6198e.pdf. Accessed 19 December 2016.
2. United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service. Food Expenditure. 2016. Available at https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-expenditures.aspx. Accessed 19 December 2016.