Tag Archives: pigs

In a consumer-driven business, the pork industry benefits from giving grocery shoppers what they’re looking for.

So meat scientists’ recent findings that consumers are routinely happy with larger cuts – and the resulting tenderness profiles – can be looked at as good news for pork producers.

“One of the results of increased genetics and improved nutrition is that the pork industry has been able to get pigs to heavier market weights a lot more efficiently,” said Travis O’Quinn, a meat scientist with K-State Research and Extension.

“When we harvest those animals at heavier weights, the resulting impact is that we end up with larger cuts that come off those animals, ultimately resulting in larger pork chops when consumers go to the grocery store.”

In taste-test panels conducted recently at Kansas State University, consumers rated pork from larger animals as more tender, and they actually preferred thicker cuts of meat in side-by-side visual comparisons with thinner cuts.

“We brought consumers in and fed them the pork chops and didn’t tell them anything about them other than that they were pork chops,” O’Quinn said. “The consumers’ (responses indicated) that the bigger the animal was, the more tender the product was. When we looked at flavor and juiciness and how much they liked their product overall, there was no difference. We were able to see in the heavier-weight pigs that we did have more tender products.”

Consumers also responded to questions related to packaging of pork. O’Quinn noted that larger cuts could mean that retail packages are larger, meaning that even though the price per pound remains the same, the overall price for larger cuts is higher compared to the overall price for thinner cuts.

O’Quinn said consumers mistakenly thought the price per pound was too high, rather than realizing that the overall price was higher due to the higher weight of the chops in the package.

“To our surprise, when we had the case with no information, the consumers generally liked the bigger chops,” said Emily Rice, a K-State graduate student who conducted the study under O’Quinn’s supervision. “But when we put the prices on there, there became a limit to how big those chops could actually be for the consumers to say they were willing to actually purchase them.

The study’s results will be presented during the K-State Swine Day, scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 15, at the K-State Alumni Center in Manhattan. The study was supported by the National Pork Board and Minnesota-based Holden Farms.

“When we look at the results of this study, it really is a win-win situation,” O’Quinn said. “Producers know they are producing a high-quality product. If all trends continue in the industry, and we continue to get larger pigs in the next 10 to 15 years, we don’t have to worry about the quality being negatively impacted. If anything, we could improve the tenderness of the pork just by having these animals naturally get bigger as they will over time.”

He adds: “Overall, that’s good news for the consumer. They have the ability to know with confidence that the pork they are purchasing today will be just as tender, if not more tender, in the future as they continue going. So it really is a positive for consumers.”

With Iowa’s soybean harvest expected to total nearly 600 million bushels, the partnership between soy and pork takes on added importance as production booms and trade disputes linger.

“Iowa soybean farmers depend on domestic and global demand for pork,” says Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) President Lindsay Greiner. “That’s always been true, but never more evident than right now.”

Iowa’s status as the nation’s leading pork producer depends on soybean farmers. About seventy-five percent of Iowa soybean crop is converted into soybean meal. The average pig consumes nearly 120 pounds of it — or the equivalent of 2.5 bushels of soybeans according to the Iowa Pork Producers Association.

“That appetite for soy is critical to the competitiveness and success of soybean farmers,” says Greiner, who grows soybeans and raises hogs near Keota, “Considering there are nearly 20 million pigs on feed at any given time in Iowa, the result is a strong demand for Iowa soybeans.”

              Dave Struthers, a soybean farmer who raises hogs near Collins, says both industries play off each other and add to Iowa’s agricultural productivity and economic success.

“I always say hakuna matata, it’s the circle of life. The beans are used as feed for the hogs, then the hogs produce the fertilizer to put back on the field,” says Struthers.

Why are soybeans and swine so BIG in Iowa?

  • Feed to fertilizer: One 4,800-head pig farm will generate enough plant food for 600 acres of a corn/soybean rotation.
  • Farming legacy: Iowa has more than 6,000 pig farms and 40,000 soybean farmers, and 94 percent of Iowa’s farms are family-owned.
  • Jobs, jobs, jobs: The two industries combined contribute $12.3 billion to Iowa’s economy and support more than 230,000 Iowa jobs.
  • Exports: Iowa is the top state for pork exports, totaling more than $1.1 billion in 2017, according to the National Pork Producers Council.

Join the Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association in celebrating October Pork Month by using #Porktober18 on social media. Celebrate an entire month dedicated to celebrating the most popular meat in the world, according to the USDA Foreign Agriculture Service.

“If you’re wondering how to best celebrate pork month and support Iowa farmers,” Struthers advises, “the answer is to eat more pork!”

A recent trade mission to Asia by the National Pork Board International Marketing Committee built lasting relationships with international customers and elevated U.S. pork as the global protein of choice. The Pork Checkoff team toured Singapore, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Macau, meeting with pork processors, distributors and retailers, importers and traders, as well as in-country staff responsible for promoting U.S. pork in the region.

“Pork is the No. 1 most-consumed protein in the world, and that was obvious on this mission,” said Bill Luckey, a pork producer from Columbus, Nebraska, and chair of the Pork Checkoff’s International Marketing Committee. “As the committee allocates Pork Checkoff dollars to international marketing, it is important to see how these dollars are working today and how we might better target producer resources in emerging markets in the future.”

With U.S. pork production again breaking records in 2018, the Pork Checkoff is committed to growing pork demand both domestically and in international markets. Singapore and Vietnam are developing markets for U.S. pork and present huge opportunities for U.S. pork export growth in the coming years. In 2017, U.S. pork exports to Singapore increased almost 20 percent from 2016, reaching $17 million. Last year, the United States also exported over $11 million of fresh/chilled/frozen bone-in hams and shoulders to Vietnam.

“Consumers in Vietnam and Singapore are rapidly increasing pork in their diets, with pork consumption on trend to overtake seafood consumption in both markets as the No. 1 protein,” said Craig Morris, the Pork Checkoff’s vice president of international marketing. “This provides a great opportunity to capture a rapidly increasing market share, but we must first understand the changing consumer and retail landscapes in these countries to meet consumer needs and expectations.”

While in Singapore, the committee learned that U.S. pork often is positioned as a premium product, with high-end U.S. pork selling for three to five times more than the price of competitors’ products. Also, pre-prepared and processed foods are becoming popular as consumers seek convenience to meet their increasingly busy, urban lifestyles.

“U.S. pork can succeed in Singapore by delivering a high-quality product packaged in small portions and in convenient, ready-to-cook formats,” Morris said.

In Vietnam, committee members learned that popular wet markets, where fresh pork is sold on the streets, are declining as consumers seek the modern conveniences of full-service grocery stores. U.S. pork is viewed as a superior product in terms of taste and quality, and it is being marketed as such by U.S. import partners and buyers, Morris noted. U.S. pork is heavily featured in restaurants throughout Vietnam, especially by those with newer, more modern menu offerings.

“It’s surprising, but Vietnam is a booming market for American barbecue,” Luckey said. “Many restaurants feature U.S. pork’s reputation for superior quality, which they promote on menus to grow their business.”

Hong Kong also remains a strategic partner for U.S. pork. According to Morris, a significant amount of U.S. pork is sold in Hong Kong then shipped to mainland China, Macau, Vietnam and other Asian markets. As a conduit to other regions, Hong Kong is a critical market, with 38 percent of all of the food the U.S. ships there, in turn, re-exported, according to Morris.

“In this challenging trade environment, it is critical that we meet with our colleagues in Hong Kong and express gratitude for their continued partnership. Building face-to-face relationships is especially important in this region,” Morris said. “We met with 40 of the largest importers who play a key role In deciding what will be sold in retail stores, featured on restaurant menus and traded with other countries in Southeast Asia.”

The last stop on the international mission was Macau, which is home to some of the world’s largest casinos. As a large tourist destination, the country offers many opportunities for U.S. pork to be showcased to consumers from all around the world.

Luckey called the Asian trade mission a great success.

“Not only were we able to see the many different ways that pork is being promoted in these countries, but we came back with insights into how to grow our market share,” Luckey said. “The committee members are excited to share these ideas with our partners here in the U.S. and to follow up with customers we met to bring U.S. pork to their shelves and menus.”

USDA released it’s quarterly hogs and pigs report. The report came in similar to how analysts expected.

United States inventory of all hogs and pigs on September 1, 2018 was 75.5 million head. This was up 3 percent from September 1, 2017, and up 3 percent from June 1, 2018.

Breeding inventory, at 6.33 million head, was up 3 percent from last year, and up slightly from the previous quarter.

Market hog inventory, at 69.2 million head, was up 3 percent from last year, and up 4 percent from last quarter.

The June-August 2018 pig crop, at 34.2 million head, was up 3 percent from 2017.

Listen to Jerry Stowell of Country Futures break the report down:

Sows farrowing during this period totaled 3.19 million head, up 3 percent from 2017.

The sows farrowed during this quarter represented 50 percent of the breeding herd.

The average pigs saved per litter was a record high of 10.72 for the June-August period, compared to 10.65 last year.

United States hog producers intend to have 3.16 million sows farrow during the September-November 2018 quarter, up 2 percent from the actual farrowings during the same period in 2017, and up 4 percent from 2016. Intended farrowings for December-February 2019, at 3.12 million sows, are up 2 percent from 2018, and up 4 percent from 2017.

The total number of hogs under contract owned by operations with over 5,000 head, but raised by contractees, accounted for 48 percent of the total United States hog inventory, up from 47 percent the previous year.

USDA Actual:

All Hogs Sept. 1 103.0%

Kept for Breeding 103.0%

Kept for Marketing 103.0%


180# Plus 103.0%

120-179# 103.0%

50-119# 103.0%

Under 50# 103.0%


Jun-Aug 103.0%

Sep-Nov * 102.0%

Dec-Feb * 102.0%

Summer Pig Crop 103.0%

Jun-Aug Pigs per Litter 101.0%

The next report will be released on December 20, 2018 at 3:00 P.M. EST at www.nass.usda.gov.