SALEM, Ohio – Pork producers soon will have a new certification program to smooth consumers’ concerns over food safety and animal care.
The National Pork Board announced the program last week at the World Pork Expo in Des Moines, Iowa.
The voluntary program, named Pork Quality Assurance Plus or PQA Plus, will roll together the pork industry’s two current assurance programs, said board spokesperson Cindy Cunningham.
Currently, Pork Quality Assurance focuses on food safety and Swine Welfare Assurance Program looks at animal welfare. The new program also will concentrate on these two aspects, while adding an auditing component.
The audit will give the program credibility and assure consumers farmers are doing the right things on their operations, Cunningham said.
She expects no more than 200 of the participating producers will be audited annually. Pending USDA’s approval, checkoff dollars would pay for the audits, Cunningham said.
In addition to the audits, PQA Plus will also focus on producer education and third-party on-farm assessments. Both of these are already part of the existing programs.
Cunningham said it’s too soon to look at how much PQA Plus will cost producers, but said she does not expect it to be more than they currently pay for the other two programs.
Ready to go.
The PQA Plus launch date is set for next July.
In the meantime, the National Pork Board will work on the program’s specifics, Cunningham said. The National Pork Board expects implementation to take three years.
More than 100,000 producers already participate in the Pork Quality Assurance program, which was started in 1989, Cunningham said.
It’s harder to determine, however, how many participate in the Swine Welfare Assurance Program because it has only been operating since 2003, she said.
Producers who are due for re-certification in the next year, before PQA Plus is available, should continue with their current programs, Cunningham said.
Merging the two will make the education and assessment aspects easier for producers to implement, she said.
During the past year, the Pork Industry Animal Care Coalition has been working on a solution to give consumers added confidence in the pork industry. PQA Plus is its answer.
The coalition is funded by the pork checkoff and included producers, packers, processors, restaurants and food retailers.
“The coalition agreed also that no solution would ever satisfy animal agriculture opponents,” said National Pork Board President Danita Rodibaugh. “The solution is aimed at answering the concerns of our consumers, not an activist agenda.”
(Reporter Kristy Hebert welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419, ext. 23 or by e-mail at email@example.com.)