I celebrated my one-year anniversary with Farm Journal’s PORK at the Allen D. Leman Swine Conference. In a way, I guess you could say it was a fitting place for such an occasion, surrounded by swine industry leaders, veterinarians and friends that I have grown to admire and respect more than ever.
A year ago, I could feel the tension and anxiety in the room as the reality of China being struck by African swine fever (ASF) weighed heavy on everyone’s minds. This year, the feeling was different, not because the threat is gone (the threat has only grown in my mind), but because the conference gave everyone an opportunity to see a year’s worth of research come together to provide hope and answers.
Undoubtedly, the challenges ahead are great, but the determination of the U.S. swine industry is greater.
On Tuesday, the conference began with RaboBank senior protein analyst Christine McCracken sharing her take on ASF and the animal protein markets.
She brought up an interesting point when she said, “I think most people in this room are well aware of the basics of African swine fever. What’s amazing to me is that you go one or two steps down the chain, whether or not it’s a packer or a further processor, a retailer, or a food service operator, and the level of understanding on ASF after one year is still very, very low.”
She wasn’t the only one to express that concern. She pointed out that this may be by design in an effort not to create a panic here in the U.S. But McCracken said it’s concerning given the magnitude of the losses, how little is understood about the virus. The other piece she believes is getting missed is that ASF poses no risk to human health.
I just returned from a trip to Australia and New Zealand and I couldn’t agree more. During my travels, I had many opportunities to discuss ASF and the pork industry with people. I was reminded how little people really know about this virus and this has motivated me to do more to get the critical message out that pork is safe to eat.
I’ve written articles about the science behind why pork is safe to eat. I think those are important messages for those of us in the pork industry to be able to share with our family, friends and the people we run into in our day-to-day lives.
But we can’t forget the power of “walking the talk.” We need to eat more pork. We need to serve it to our friends. We need to order it at restaurants. We need to live out the truth we know.
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