When Congress signed the Pork Act into law in late 1985, mandatory pork checkoff funding for promotion, research and consumer information jump-started a floundering industry.

Pork began a long journey from being labeled a second-class citizen in the mid-80s to now being called "the meat of the millennium" in the January 2000 issue of the highly acclaimed Food & Wine magazine.

As the Pork Checkoff Referendum voting draws near, National Hog Farmer believes it is critical that all pork producers review the major checkoff-funded initiatives of recent years, giving serious thought to the value of these programs before casting a well-informed, conscientious vote in September. To foster this process, we challenged the three main departments at the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) - Demand Enhancement/Trade, Science & Technology and Education, Environment & Production Research - to outline their best, most successful programs for your consideration.

Some programs are "big picture," industry-wide initiatives aimed at enhancing the stature and general acceptance of modern-day pork. Other programs tackle production and pork quality issues that more readily apply to the hands-on, everyday business of raising quality pork.

Following each major program, you will find a simple rating system from 1 to 5 (5 being best). When you have finished, the rankings should help you decide how to cast your checkoff referendum vote.

The checkoff-funded programs, represented by the three NPPC departments, reflect only national initiatives and do not include programs funded by the 20% of checkoff funds returned to the collective states for their individual programs.

Demand Enhancement & Trade

Consumer Advertising The "Pork. The Other White Meat" campaign is considered one of the most successful product repositions in marketing history. Launched in 1987, the campaign was named the fifth-most memorable tagline in contemporary advertising by Northwestern University. Today awareness of pork as "the other white meat" is at 87%.

Before the campaign's success, pork was experiencing a serious decline in sales. Fresh pork's share of total meat protein consumption fell from 32% in 1960 to 26% in 1985.

To counteract consumer perceptions that beef and chicken were healthier choices, the pork industry kicked off its advertising campaign.

The message has been highly successful in convincing consumers pork is significantly lower in calories, lower in fat, more acceptable in overall flavor, easier to prepare, higher in nutritional value, taste and versatility than before the start of the advertising campaign.

When asked to rank pork, 56% of consumers overall have positive to very positive attitudes toward pork.

The NPPC has added a new marketing effort to its "the other white meat" campaign to expand pork demand. Attempting to cash in on dinner monotony and "chicken fatigue," the pork industry is promoting pork as the alternative to chicken and beef.

How would you rank this promotional effort?

. Benefits to pork industry: 1 2 3 4 5

. Benefits to my operation: 1 2 3 4 5

Retail Marketing Activities include promotion, education and research programs within the retail grocery segment.

The category management program was started in 1994 to develop long-term, working relationships with retailers and to build a comprehensive database on meat case profitability, trends, products, regional differences and merchandising.

NPPC has worked with major food retailers to help boost their fresh pork business. Participating retailers have boosted sales 83 million lb. annually.

In all, 4,800 U.S. grocery stores have been impacted by the category management program. Work has started with 5,500 additional stores to position pork as the meat case resource.

The NPPC has partnered with other grocery products to build customized pork retail promotions. This strategy stretches retail marketing dollars, allowing the industry to reach more retailers and increase pork's stature by linking to high-quality, name brands. Such partnerships are dependent upon a certain level of financial responsibility provided by checkoff funding.

Analysis of public data has shown that pork's presence in retail ads has grown more than 9% in the last 11/2 years.

. Benefits to pork industry: 1 2 3 4 5

. Benefits to my operation: 1 2 3 4 5

Foodservice Marketing Foodservice marketing programs have made significant inroads. The direct contact program has seen a dramatic increase in the number of new pork items added to chain restaurant menus in the last decade.

In the last four years, new pork items on chain restaurant menus grew by 129%. New items were introduced at Hardee's, T.G.I. Friday's, Burger King and McDonald's.

Foodservice volume of pork prepared was up by 1.3 billion lb. from 1996 to 1999.

Bacon sales are booming in foodservice, accounting for 19% of overall growth. Direct sales efforts were reflected in 22 categories of bacon-loaded sandwich offerings at fast-food and casual dining establishments.

A public relations campaign incorporating the Celebrated Chefs program helps elevate pork's image in high-end restaurants and shows mid-scale and quick-service operators how to use pork.

. Benefits to pork industry: 1 2 3 4 5

. Benefits to my operation: 1 2 3 4 5

Foreign Market Development Significant strides have been made in the export of U.S. pork and pork products. In 1990, just 1.62% of domestic pork production was sold internationally. Since then, the U.S. has averaged more than 20% annual growth. In 1999, exports reached 1,218,397 lb. worth $1.2 billion (including Russian food aid), 6.59% of U.S. production.

Net pork exports have contributed more than $3.2 billion to the overall income of the U.S. pork industry since 1987, according to projections by the University of Missouri.

Exports do two things. They open up new markets, and they provide markets for pork products that hold little or no value in the domestic arena. The U.S. Meat Export Federation (MEF) projects healthy growth for pork exports, provided checkoff support continues. MEF is forecasting nearly a 67% rise in total pork exports by 2005, almost doubling volume to more than 2 million lb.

Sustained by pork checkoff funding, specific trade efforts, which have contributed to the rapid growth of pork exports, include:

* The U.S. Pork Seal used as the new mark of quality differentiation for product destined for international markets;

* Export Trade Account Development, which has provided pork checkoff funds to MEF to support trade development in more than 50 key countries;

* Worldwide representation for U.S. pork is achieved using a network of MEF offices in 19 locations around the world. Trained meat-marketing specialists in these locales keep customers informed about the quality, safety, reliability, value and great taste of U.S. pork.

. Benefits to pork industry: 1 2 3 4 5

. Benefits to my operation: 1 2 3 4 5

Trade Access Research and educational activities supported by the checkoff are used to improve or maintain access for U.S. pork. In 1998, the U.S. and Taiwan culminated four years of talks on Taiwan's admittance into the World Trade Organization. A key part of that agreement was the opening of the Taiwanese market to U.S. meat exports. In 1999, the U.S. shipped about 760,000 lb. of pork to Taiwan, making it the fifth largest export market for U.S. pork.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) granted $2.73 million for foreign market development from July 1999 to June 2000. This funding is based in part on the industry's contributions of checkoff funds. Without checkoff funding, foreign market development would decline by $3 million-$4 million, drastically shrinking the program and greatly diminishing trade programs in key markets.

. Benefits to pork industry: 1 2 3 4 5

. Benefits to my operation: 1 2 3 4 5

Pork Information Bureau (PIB) A key part of the PIB is working with food media. PIB has produced extensive coverage of pork in food magazines and newspaper food sections nationwide. Last year, PIB reached 1.2 billion readers in 3,150 stories (450 magazine articles, 2,700 newspaper articles) by supplying food editors with pork story ideas, recipes, pork news, consumer contests and pork cooking tips.

. Benefits to pork industry: 1 2 3 4 5

. Benefits to my operation: 1 2 3 4 5

Nutrition Communications In four years, checkoff-funded programming has produced: successful partnerships with the American Heart Association on two nutrition kits, influential work with the American Dietetic Association at their national meeting and through the Food & Culinary Professionals subgroup, high-impact advertising with nurses, family physicians and dietitians; national television and radio advertising in 1997 of checkoff-funded research at the University of Wisconsin, which reviewed the nutritional profile of lean pork; and, commendation from USDA Extension nutritionists in 1999 for being ahead of the USDA with their own Children's Food Guide Pyramid in a usable handout. The American Academy of Pediatrics approved the handout for distribution through pediatricians to 300,000 parents this year.

. Benefits to pork industry: 1 2 3 4 5

. Benefits to my operation: 1 2 3 4 5

Nutrition Research

Grant Program Research projects funded by checkoff dollars have protected pork's image against challenges such as cholesterol, saturated fat and heart disease; iron overload and heart disease; meat intake and cancer risk and grilled meat and cancer risk.

The projects have also spelled out pork's nutrient value in iron and zinc influence on child growth and cognition; zinc and enhanced immune function; conjugated lineolic acids' anti-carcinogen and anti-obesity effects.

. Benefits to pork industry: 1 2 3 4 5

. Benefits to my operation: 1 2 3 4 5

Market Basket Studies Market Basket I, Composition of Fresh Pork At Retail '89, provided strong evidence for the "Pork. The Other White Meat" campaign that pork was 30% leaner. The study resulted in the complete revision of USDA's database on pork nutrient composition. It also provided documentation for the national nutrition labeling program and calculation of nutritional information on recipes and menus.

Market Basket II, Composition of Fresh Pork and Poultry At Retail '97, showed that pork has maintained its lean composition and the nutritional parity between pork and poultry.

. Benefits to pork industry: 1 2 3 4 5

. Benefits to my operation: 1 2 3 4 5

Science & Technology

Pork Quality Assurance Program

This program, started in 1989, was the industry's successful response to a round of violative antibiotic residues that threatened to curtail the use of antimicrobial products.

The checkoff-funded Pork Quality Assurance (PQA) program demonstrated producer willingness and ability to use animal health products responsibly.

PQA has been a model for other quality assurance programs and for producer and veterinarian cooperation to improve production efficiencies. The program also has shown government regulators that producers can successfully manage food safety on their farms without packer or government intervention.

. Benefits to pork industry: 1 2 3 4 5

. Benefits to my operation: 1 2 3 4 5

PRRS Research Checkoff funding has worked to provide producers the tools to deal with the industry's most economically devastating disease. Some $1.8 million of producer funds has been spent since 1991 on Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS). Achievements include: isolation, characterization and identification of the RNA virus of the disease; demonstration of various routes of infection; determination of viral persistence in the on-farm environment; development of serologic tests, virus isolation and polymerase chain reaction technology to detect the virus; vaccine evaluations, and learning the impact of co-infections.

. Benefits to pork industry: 1 2 3 4 5

. Benefits to my operation: 1 2 3 4 5

Pseudorabies Eradication Program The pork industry and state and federal agencies combined forces to develop one of the first industry-government animal disease cleanup efforts - the National Pseudorabies (PRV) Eradication Program.

Checkoff-funded research advances have saved producers from production losses and vaccine costs. Producer-supported research has helped explain how PRV virus affects pigs and other animals, how it is spread and how to prevent that spread.

Checkoff funds were used in developing new technology that, for the first time, permitted differentiation between a vaccinated animal and one that was infected by the virus.

The PRV eradication program will be completed in slightly more than 10 years, compared to decades devoted to other animal disease eradication programs without adequate producer financial contributions.

. Benefits to pork industry: 1 2 3 4 5

. Benefits to my operation: 1 2 3 4 5

Antimicrobial Resistance Checkoff-funded programs are proactively addressing this concern in regard to product usage to assure consumers of product safety.

. Benefits to pork industry: 1 2 3 4 5

. Benefits to my operation: 1 2 3 4 5

Keeping Foreign Diseases Out Educational information supported by checkoff dollars is helping to enhance biosecurity to protect U.S. herds from catastrophic animal disease outbreaks.

. Benefits to pork industry: 1 2 3 4 5

. Benefits to my operation: 1 2 3 4 5

Quality Measures, Audits To help producers in expanding markets, checkoff dollars were invested in the development of the Official Quality Standards to provide a common definition with objective ties.

Through checkoff funding, producers gain knowledge about all the factors that can affect pork quality so they can improve quality and enhance market opportunities.

. Benefits to pork industry: 1 2 3 4 5

. Benefits to my operation: 1 2 3 4 5

Education/ Environment/ Production Genetic Research & Evaluation

* World Pork Expo Challenge Tests (1988-1990) - the first in a series of genetic evaluation programs; the first production test program that provided loin quality information on market hogs. Pigs sired by eight pure breeds and six company lines compared side by side.

* National Barrow Show Sire Progeny Tests (1991-1999) - the new DNA stress gene test showed the harmful effects of the stress gene on meat quality; provided current breed differences for growth, carcass and meat quality traits; gave breeders heritability and genetic correlation of meat quality traits with which to make improvements.

* Terminal Sire Line National Genetic Evaluation Program (1993-1995) - the first truly unbiased production test comparison of pig growth, carcass and meat quality traits in commercial crossbreeding systems. Results showed producers the economic differences between sire lines of nine seedstock suppliers.

* SEW methods were developed and successfully used in commingled pigs from up to 56 herds at a time.

* Gilt Development Project (1995-1996) - provided strong evidence to restricted energy diets for gilts 150-250 lb.

* Quality Lean Growth Modeling Project (1996-1998) - involved separation of 694 carcasses for calculation of new carcass prediction equations; offered diet program evaluations of 1,550 pigs from six genetic types; provided the first fresh belly quality and bacon processing trait evaluation; included the second national consumer taste test of pork loin, fresh ham and chicken breast for quality values.

* Maternal Sow Line National Genetic Evaluation Program (1996-2000) - the first unbiased sow longevity trial under commercial setting, provided sow mortality data from 10 days of age through four parities.

How do you view the composite of Genetic Research & Evaluation programs reviewed above?

. Benefits to pork industry: 1 2 3 4 5

. Benefits to my operation: 1 2 3 4 5

Production Research More than 70 volunteer producer leaders direct research projects each year on issues such as animal health, production efficiency and pork product quality, safety and nutrition.

Checkoff funding of $1 million-$2 million annually supports 40-50 new projects that often serve as seed money for much larger privateand public research efforts.

The most comprehensive, complete genetic evaluation programs ever undertaken in the U.S. are amongst the accomplishments the past 12 years. Producer oversight of these programs has ensured the work resulted in usable research findings. This research has provided unbiased, accurate data, economic values of traits to maximize production efficiency, and, applications to further enhance production efficiency.

The results of NPPC meat quality research have led to elimination of the stress gene from commercial breeding programs, incorporation of meat quality measures, such as ultimate pH in market hog buying programs and identification of consumer quality values.

Checkoff funding also has been used to test and report results on new technology including segregated early weaning (SEW), artificial insemination and gilt development programs.

. Benefits to pork industry: 1 2 3 4 5

. Benefits to my operation: 1 2 3 4 5

On-Farm Odor/Environmental Assessment Program (EAP)

This three-year-old, checkoff-funded program provides producers with a first-of-its kind agricultural environmental assessment program using third party experts.

EAP uses certified assessors to obtain uniform testing results from farm to farm. Assessors evaluate how to manage environmental risks on each farm. A database was created to help producers build production systems with the least risk.

The program was reviewed and approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which developed a Compliance Audit Protection program around the EAP for producers. Those voluntarily participating and disclosing any Clean Water Act violations receive reduced fines.

Because of EAP's success, there have been two, $5 million grants to America's Clean Water Foundation (ACWF) to conduct assessments at no cost to the producer.

In all, the $1.5 million checkoff investment in EAP has been leveraged to obtain $10 million of grant monies from the EPA.

. Benefits to pork industry: 1 2 3 4 5

. Benefits to my operation: 1 2 3 4 5

Odor Solution Programs NPPC has launched a $3.5-million plan to speed the development of odor abatement technologies. On-farm biological, chemical, mechanical and management-based systems have been screened by third-party reviewers to help producers make fact-based decisions about selection of the proper technology.

In the last three years, the NPPC has spent more than $1.6 million in checkoff dollars in manure management and other environmentally related projects.

. Benefits to pork industry: 1 2 3 4 5

. Benefits to my operation: 1 2 3 4 5

Producer Education Programs Since 1994, more than 33,000 pork producers have attended more than 180 checkoff-funded educational programs nationally.

Funds also have been used to develop resource materials and videos covering topics such as AI, feed purchasing and contracting.

The NPPC and states jointly initiated the checkoff-funded competitive seminars in 1996. Also during the recent economic crisis, checkoff funds supported a series of risk management educational programs.

. Benefits to pork industry: 1 2 3 4 5

. Benefits to my operation: 1 2 3 4 5

After major programs, you will find a simple rating system from 1 to 5 (5 being best). We included this feature to assist you in placing a value on each program - both as it pertains to you and your hog operation, and as it pertains to the pork industry as a whole. The rating opportunity will appear like this:

. Benefits to pork industry: 1 2 3 4 5

. Benefits to my operation: 1 2 3 4 5

Circle the ranking you feel is appropriate. When you have finished, review the rankings to help collect your overall thoughts about the value of the checkoff programs to you and to the pork industry.