The National Pork Producers Council will celebrate the silver anniversary of World Pork Expo in June. Being a bit of a pork industry history buff, I decided to thumb through some old files to help jog my memory of how this “world’s largest pork-specific event” came about.

I stopped at the file labeled “1987 American Pork Congress.” It was at that early-March event in Indianapolis that an official announcement was made about spinning off the expansive trade show as a stand-alone event. The new World Pork Expo would be staged in the heart of hog country in early June, at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines. This was a bold move. To that point, the NPPC’s annual delegate meeting was held in conjunction with the popular American Pork Congress trade show, production seminars, the National Pork Cookoff Contest and the crowning of the National Pork Queen.

As a footnote, it was at the 1987 American Pork Congress that a “breakthrough” promotion campaign was introduced to reposition fresh pork products. The “Pork, the Other White Meat” campaign was rolled out during the general delegate session, and former Olympic figure skating medal winner Peggy Fleming was introduced as pork’s new spokesperson.

Today, delegates of the NPPC and the National Pork Board meet in early March to conduct their annual business meetings, now known as the National Pork Industry Forum.

All are Welcome

To entice exhibitors and pork producers alike to the new World Pork Expo, NPPC leaders and show manager Ernie Barnes would boast: “More hog farmers in one spot than anybody has ever seen in the United States.”

Then as now, Terry Branstad, serving as Iowa’s governor, offered his full support to the international event expected to draw droves of pork producers, allied industry exhibitors, pork barbecue specialists, consumers and guests from foreign countries to his state’s capital city.

The purebred breed associations stepped in to plan breeding stock shows, followed by sales of the prizewinners. A special display of performance-tested boars and gilts was also featured.  

NHF Joins In

With one year of experience under our belts, staff at National Hog Farmer grasped the opportunity to expand the Pork Producers Non-Patented Inventions Contest, introduced at the 1987 American Pork Congress. The contest targeted the homemade and handy devices pork producers had fabricated in their farm shops to help feed, water, medicate, vaccinate, pregnancy check, house, sort and load their pigs. The goal was to recognize the creative genius of pork producers to invent solutions to the everyday challenges of pork production, such as a hog-proof gate latch or, literally, a better mouse trap for rodent control. A $1,000 grand prize was offered for the invention receiving the most votes cast by pork producers during the three-day event.

When the trade show moved to the new World Pork Expo site, the Pork Producers Non-Patented Inventions Contest moved with it. Forty-seven entries were received from 17 states. After screening, 33 were selected for display at the inaugural World Pork Expo in 1988, where they proved to be a hit. The following year, 125 nominations were received from 23 states and 60 were featured in an expanded 400-ft. display space. Inventions contest entries peaked in 1991, with 148 entries from 28 states.

New Products Abound

While the homemade and handy inventions recognized the innovativeness of pork producers, the vast array of commercial exhibitors were also presenting their wares — new products and services designed to make pork production more efficient and profitable.

In 1982, National Hog Farmer had introduced a novel program whereby companies could nominate their new products or services for further review by an independent panel of judges. The panel was challenged to select and review the “most promising new products” at the show. Those products are featured in the subsequent July editions of National Hog Farmer.

The purpose of the National Hog Farmer New Products Tour was two-fold: to provide pork producers who were unable to attend the trade show with an opportunity to review and request more information about the products that interested them most, and to provide trade show exhibitors with broader exposure to the products introduced to the industry during the previous year.

The 2013 National Hog Farmer New Products Tour marks its 32nd anniversary. This year’s nominations can be found in the May issue or at this link

The World Pork Expo has been a valuable resource for the global pork industry. We tip our collective hats to the organizers, exhibitors and participants of “the world’s largest pork-specific event.” Well done.  

 

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