Iowa pork producers know that consumers rely on them to provide a safe and nutritious product that was raised in the best way possible, both for the animal and the farmer, according to the Iowa Pork Producers Association.
One way producers show their commitment to these ideals is by becoming Pork Quality Assurance Plus (PQA Plus)-certified and by achieving PQA Plus site status.
To date in Iowa, 15,539 people have been certified through PQA Plus and 5,970 sites have been assessed. For the United States, 56,414 people are PQA Plus-certified and 16,599 sites have been assessed.
“PQA Plus is one of the many tools that pork producers use to show their commitment to doing the right thing,” says Conley Nelson, an Algona, IA, farmer and pig-production executive and president of the National Pork Board. “PQA Plus certification shows producer’s commitment to the industry as well as continuous improvement.”
The educational component of PQA Plus stresses 10 good production practices that cover all phases of production. Proper handling techniques promote animal well-being, while observing proper antibiotic withdrawal times through medical records helps producers provide safe meat.
PQA Plus site status is designated through on-farm site assessments. This on-farm assessment is a way of taking the program an extra step. It gives producers the chance to demonstrate their understanding and commitment to good production practices while doing what’s right for their animals and their farm.
Certification in PQA Plus and the achievement of PQA Plus site status helps strengthen trust in producers and their dedication to doing the right thing. “It gives consumers confidence in the care that our animals are receiving and in the safe meat that we, as producers, are providing,” Nelson says.
Youth also are taking the initiative to show their dedication to using good production practices by becoming certified through the Youth PQA Plus program. The program is taught to people ages 8 to 19 and addresses the topics of PQA Plus in an age-appropriate way. Currently, 609 Iowa youth and nearly 31,000 kids around the United States are certified through the program. “The PQA Plus and Youth PQA sessions taking place around the country show just how much producers do care,” Nelson says.
To ensure that PQA Plus truly reflects what consumers want and what producers are doing, the program is revised every three years.
The latest version of the program aims to be more user friendly than ever and will be rolled out at World Pork Expo in 2013. For more information on PQA Plus or Youth PQA Plus, log onto www.pork.org and click on the “Certification” tab at the top of the page.