For too long, the pork industry has watched as activist groups have hammered them over critical industry issues.

Now that tide may slowly be turning. The National Pork Board and the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) announced at World Pork Expo that they have joined forces for the first time since their 2001 separation agreement was enacted to launch an initiative called “We Care.”

“The We Care slogan says it all in that we are trying to demonstrate to the public that when it comes to the environment, animal care and other issues, nobody cares more than the pork producer,” states Mike Wegner, Pork Board vice president of communications.

The initiative is directly aimed at educating retailers, restaurants and regulators — groups that have the ability to dictate production practices and are under increasing pressure from a variety of activist groups. They need help in understanding that producers already are doing the right thing, Wegner says.

This responsible pork initiative starts with producer adoption of a set of ethical principles that the two pork groups endorsed at Pork Forum, says Dallas Hockman, NPPC vice president of industry relations. Those ethical principles cover food safety, animal well-being, environment, public health, employee care and quality of life in the communities where producers operate.

He says those ethical tenets are based on a simple formula called the three Ps: principles plus practices plus proof equals trust. “It's our commitment to the industry.”

To carry out those principles, producers must prove they are embracing industry programs such as Pork Quality Assurance-Plus, the Take Care Use Antibiotics Responsibly program, and the Trucker Quality Assurance program, Hockman continues, “not because they are market access issues, but because they are the right thing to do.”

“At the end of the day, we are just trying to demonstrate that we are worthy of the trust from both consumers and regulators, and that they trust us to do the right thing. Occasionally they may ask us to prove it,” adds Wegner.

And Hockman suggests that working with regulators and food purveyors will enable those groups to become educated in their own right, to challenge and counteract the unscientific myths. “We are seeing a variety of external forces putting extreme pressure on our business that are adding cost to our systems,” he points out.