Consumers demanding leaner meat Pork producers told to adapt to survive

February 12, 1993|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

Consumers are demanding leaner meats, and pork producers must respond to survive, Carroll County swine farmers were told a Quality First meeting Wednesday night.

"We are in a period in agriculture when consumers are asking different questions than in the past," said University of Maryland extension specialist Tom Hartsock. "For years agriculture flourished under the perception that the consumer wanted increasingly cheaper food.

"Now they're beginning to ask how that food is produced."

Leaner animals are also being demanded by packaging plants, which are paying more for animals that have less fat than the average hog. Packers are penalizing farmers who send hogs with more than the average amount of fat.

"McDonald's is not frying their french fries in lard anymore," said Mr. Hartsock. "With more health-conscious eating, lard is just not a salable product. It is more expensive to render it than the money they get to move it."

About 15 farmers heard about breeding leaner animals and economical feeding practices in the two-hour meeting at the Carroll County Agricultural Center in Westminster.

Each farmer completed levels one and two of the three-level American Pork Producers' Quality Assurance program by the end of the meeting. The third level involves a monitoring program that checks if farmers are using the practices they have learned.

"Many producers that have completed level three have found that it has saved them money and has been good for the management of their operation," said Rich Barczewski, an extension specialist at the University of Delaware.

Extension agents promoted the use of artificial insemination in breeding for leaner hogs. This practice gives the farmer a larger selection of traits and reduces the risk of disease in the herd, said University of Maryland extension specialist Mark Estienne.

The extension agents suggested changing feeding schedules to meet the nutritional needs of these leaner animals.

Also, male and female animals should be fed differently, said University of Maryland extension specialist Jerry DeBarthe.

"The high-lean-gain pigs of today will only be average in the future," he said. "We need to adjust our thinking and feeding programs."

Extension agents also told the farmers that they should help publicize the benefits of their products and how pork has improved in the past few years.

For example, several years ago, 7 percent of the butchered hogs contained unsafe levels of drug residue. Today, many consumers don't know the level has dropped to 0.3 percent, said Mr. Barczewski.

"We need to show the people of this country that we are committed to voluntarily cleaning up any problems that we have," Mr. Hartsock said. "It's something that we're doing a good job with, but not enough people know we're doing a good job."

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