Pork Quality Assurance Plus (PQA plus) has reached a major milestone – 50,000 producers have become certified in the program that assures the world U.S. producers provide a safe and wholesome product while caring for their animals in a socially responsible manner.

“All pork producers should be especially proud about reaching this milestone,” says Gene Nemechek, a swine veterinarian from Springdale, AR, and president of the National Pork Board. “Producing safe food and providing high-quality care for our animals are two of the ethical principles that form the foundation of the pork industry’s We Care initiative. But it’s one thing to talk about ethical principles and another when we walk the talk,” he says. “This demonstrates that producers are walking the talk.”

PQA was introduced in 1989 to promote food safety and residue avoidance on the farm. The program was expanded in 2007 to include animal handling practices and was renamed PQA Plus.

Producer certification requires meeting with a trained advisor once every three years to review the 10 Good Production Practices that promote pork safety and animal well-being practices.

To achieve site status, a pork operation must have an on-farm assessment of its animal handling practices by an assessor trained by the National Pork Board.

“Getting to the 50,000 certification mark has been a significant undertaking by both pork producers and the ag educators and veterinarians who conduct the certifications,” says Stacy Revels, manager of certification programs for the Pork Checkoff. “The National Pork Board in 2009 set a goal of having all pork producers certified by 2010. And while we’re not quite there yet, this milestone demonstrates the commitment of pork producers to doing the right thing.”

In 2007, 30,000 producers were certified, Nemechek says.

The Pork Board also set a goal of having all operations site-assessed by the end of 2010. “Right now, we have assessed operations that represent two-thirds of all the pigs in the country. We continue to assess new operations each week and are making great progress on our goal,” she says.

Pork producers who have yet to become certified or site-assessed can obtain information about the PQA Plus program by calling the Pork Checkoff Service Center at (800) 456-7675.