The Minnesota Pork Board (MPB) is providing a donation of $50,000 in ready-to-eat meals for disaster relief in Japan, announces MPB Executive Director David Preisler.

The MPB donation builds upon a $100,000 contribution from the National Pork Board. The boxed, precooked lunches, known as “bentos” in Japan, will feature the U.S. pork symbol with a message of sympathy and support from U.S. pork producers on the packaging. Japan is the largest foreign customer for U.S. pork, importing 5.7% of U.S. pork production in 2010.

“Japan has been a long-time customer of U.S. pork and this donation will provide pork-based meals for people living in northern Japan,” Preisler says. “Although it is promoting U.S. pork products, it provides humanitarian aid to people in need following the earthquake and tsunami.”

The decision was made at a Minnesota pork producer meeting last week. Originally, the committee intended to discuss participating in a pork promotional campaign targeting Japanese consumers.

“The promotion committee was going to review a proposal for an export enhancement program for Japan when the National Pork Board made its announcement to provide humanitarian relief,” explains Tim Waibel, MPB vice president and Courtland, MN, pork producer. “Our committee members all felt that pork donations would be a good place for us to contribute funding.”

Procurement and distribution of the lunches will be coordinated through the U.S. Meat Export Federation, which has offices in Japan and staff in place to help with this effort.

The relief effort by the committee demonstrates the tradition of county pork associations contributing to food shelves and helping communities and individuals recover from local disasters.

“Within our own communities, pork producers are generous with their time and their resources, so this does not surprise me,” Waibel says.