October is National Pork Month, an opportunity for hog farmers to not only promote their industry, but to reflect on their recent success.
Iowa became the nation's leading pork-producing state in the 1880s and it continues today with approximately 30 million hogs raised each year. More than 39,000 jobs are directly related to raising and caring for hogs in Iowa.
The Iowa pork industry generates nearly $950 million in household income for pork producers and production alone contributes nearly $5 billion to the state's economy.
The state's pork producers have earned a strong international reputation of cost-efficiently producing quality pork that is safe and reliable and in 2010, exports of Iowa pork reached an all-time high of $1.1 billion. Exports to Japan, Mexico, Canada, China, Hong Kong and other countries help increase the price farmers receive for their hogs.
Much of the industry's recent success can be attributed to the commitment of Iowa's hog farmers to an industry-wide, continuous improvement program started in 2007 that outlines good production practices in the areas of food safety and animal well-being.
Iowa producers have overwhelmingly embraced the Pork Quality Assurance Plus (PQA Plus) program with more than 14,000 producers, employees and others involved in pork production on Iowa farms certified in the program. In addition, more than 5,300 production sites have been PQA Plus-assessed by an independent third party.
Demand for pork was bolstered last spring when the National Pork Board introduced a new branding position that celebrates pork's ability to offer a wide range of kitchen options. With PORK as the brand, the new campaign slogan of "Pork Be Inspired" shows pork's place in nearly any menu, day part, cuisine or lifestyle. The new brand targets the 82 million Americans who already cook, eat and love pork.
Another success story was written in May when the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service unveiled new cooking guidelines for pork. The announcement confirmed National Pork Board research that showed pork can be consumed safely when cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees, and followed by a 3-minute rest period.
The new pork cooking guidelines help consumers enjoy pork at its most flavorful, juicy and safe temperature.
As with all farmers, pork producers won't rest on their laurels. They continue to look for new and improved ways to enhance pork quality, improve animal well-being, protect our natural resources and contribute to a better quality of life in our communities.