Move the Food Conversation Forward

It’s been an interesting year full of ups and downs for pig farmers. But a conversation I had with Jarrod Sutton, vice president of domestic marketing at the National Pork Board, reminded me of one thing that should give us all optimism: people want pork. 

It’s simple. We need to talk more about that. We need to celebrate pork as a food.

“An economy works based on buyers and sellers coming together in the marketplace,” Sutton says. “We obviously have sellers and we're making pork. We'll make more if people are interested in buying more.”
And Sutton says customers do. He credits this to the high-quality product U.S. pig farmers produce and the way they do it. 

“The face of our industry is respected all around the world,” Sutton says. “And from a marketing point of view, that's a pretty easy sell. We can package, execute and deploy that and create those relationships with customers that results in loyalty.”

Why Does Connection Matter?
As the food conversation evolves, it’s critical that the pork industry finds innovative ways to share its message with a wide audience of customers. People want to know about their food, from where it came from to how it was produced.

Developing relationships is a critical part of understanding how customers feel about food. About 98% of the population is not connected to a farm or ranch. 

“Agriculture is not inherent knowledge anymore like it used to be,” said Kim Kirchherr, registered dietitian and supermarket consultant, at the recent Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholders Summit. “So how do we make sure we are resonating? Relationships make facts make sense.”

During a consumer panel at the Summit, we listened to six consumers share their meat purchasing habits, including how much price, taste, appearance, animal welfare, antibiotics and labeling claims matter. 

It was eye-opening. The consumers agreed taste, price and appearance are important when they stand at the meat case, but they had differing opinions when it came to animal welfare and antibiotic use. 

“I do want to be a conscious meat consumer,” said Lynn, a 50-year-old marketing professional who lives with her two cats. “I do care about how the animal was raised and care about what was put in that animal that I am going to end up eating.”

On the other hand, semi-retired, Midwest-raised Thomas, 63, said he doesn’t think about animal welfare when he purchases meat. He believes farmers do their best to care for animals.

Several panelists mentioned they rely on the retailers to source humanely raised meat and poultry products. Zach, a father of two, said he receives very mixed messages when it comes to food production and admits it's hard to know what to believe. 

“I appreciate the transparency of retailers like Sprouts when it comes to food,” Zach said. He believes it’s important to share the story of where food comes from and knows he still has much to learn. 

An Invitation to Connect
It has been a few years since I last visited the National Pork Board office. In June, I got a sneak peek at the innovation kitchen and the thought process behind it. The cutting-edge kitchen is amazing – a facility pork producers can take great pride in. But most of all, I was impressed by the insight the board members had in creating this hub for innovation in the pork industry.

Sutton made a great point when he said the new kitchen will allow them to showcase pork, but more importantly that it will allow them to invite people in to experience pork. 

How are you inviting people in, developing relationships and advancing the food conversation? We are in a unique position to be able to tell our story to an audience who wants to know. 

More from Farm Journal's PORK:

The Innovation Kitchen is Open at the National Pork Board

Does the Conversation Reflect the Cart?

Consumers Dish on Meat Purchasing Decisions