Assisting Pork Producers Pursuing Value-Added Marketing Opportunities
North Carolina State University Swine Extension Research from 2003. An extension program was developed to assist producers who are targeting products toward value-added markets. Market hogs from 11 producers were evaluated for hot carcass wt, lean composition and fresh pork quality. Pork quality classification significantly differed by producer. These results were shared with producers during an educational program that described quality measures, presented individual results, and described methods to improve quality at the farm level. Producers were able to learn recommended production practices and share knowledge among their peer group. This program has helped pork producers improve pork quality, gain entry into value-added markets, and secure repeat sales.
Pork producers are aggressively pursuing value-added marketing opportunities. Historically pork producers have focused on commodity production achieving profit by keeping costs low. Currently the market is gearing up to continuously monitor consumer preference information and respond with unique quality bundles that different consumer groups demand (Buhr and DiPietre, 1997). An extension program was developed to assist North Carolina producers who are targeting products toward markets where the value attributes are antibiotic free, family-farmed, welfare friendly, or other label attributes. In order to maintain these markets when established the pork products must be of a consistent, high quality. To provide technical assistance and educational programs to pork producer pursuing value-added marketing opportunities.
Approach and Outcome
Market hogs (n = 354) from 11 producers were evaluated for hot carcass weight, lean composition and fresh pork quality on seven occasions between September and December 2001. At 24 hours postmortem, midline fat depth was measured at the first rib, last rib, and last lumbar locations. The right loin from each carcass was split at the 10th rib for measurement of pork quality and loin area (National Pork Board, 2000). Measuring ultimate pH, Minolta color, drip loss, and marbling score accomplished the pork quality assessment. Fresh meat color as measured by the Minolta Colorimeter has a subtle but important impact on consumer purchase decision. Most consumers prefer a bright reddish-pink color in fresh pork (Minolta color = 49). Pork cuts that are too dark (Minolta color = 31), too pale (Minolta color = 61), or too variable in color within a package or within the meat case, may lower the consumer’s perception of quality. Marbling has been related to flavor, juiciness and tenderness of the meat. Pork with a higher marbling score (1 = low to 10 = high) would be expected to produce meat with better eating quality. However, consumers differ in their preferences for marbling based on attitudes toward eating quality versus increased calories associated with increased marbling. Drip loss percentage is associated with the firmness and wetness of the meat. Not only is high drip loss unattractive to the consumer it can also result in excessive cooking losses and drying of the meat during cooking. Ultimate pH is not actually a pork quality measurement in itself, but is an objective measure that is highly correlated to color, drip loss and eating quality traits. In addition, loins were classified as red, firm and normal (RFN), red, soft and exudative (RSE) or pale, soft and exudative (PSE). Differences in pork quality measurements among producers were evaluated using general linear models. Chi-square analysis and Cochran-Mantel-Haenszel statistics were used to test differences in the distribution of pork quality classification across producer.
Carcass composition differed by producer (P < 0.001) ranging in fat free lean percentage from 46.4 to 56.0. Average backfat depth ranged from 21.1 to 28.4 mm across producers. In addition, loins from different producers significantly differed in all quality measures (P < 0.001). Across producer, loin drip loss percentage ranged from 2.03 to 5.53, Minolta L* value ranged from 51.7 to 58.9, ultimate pH ranged from 5.66 to 6.19, and marbling score ranged from 1.3 to 2.3. Pork quality classification also differed by producer (Figure 1; P < 0.01) ranging from 100% RFN to 56.8% RFN, 13.6% RSE and 29.6% PSE.
Results were shared with producers during an educational program in December 2001 that described quality measures, presented individual results, and described methods to improve quality at the farm level. Each producer received all data from their farm, a written summary of their product evaluations, and a list of suggested management changes. A presentation was prepared and presented that described in detail pork quality measurements, production practices that impact pork quality, consumer information and trends, observed carcass composition and loin quality. Producers were able to learn recommended production practices and share knowledge among their peer group. In addition, a 16-step assessment program was developed for pork quality control points.
pork quality control points
Genetic Control Points:
- All market hogs are ideally 50% Duroc and a minimum of 25% Duroc or other approved breeds
- Genetic suppliers must be able to provide pork quality information and utilize available tools
- All animals are free of the Hal 1843 genetic mutation
- Utilization of animals that contribute to marbling without increasing external fat
- Completed training on the “Effect of genetics on pork quality”
Farm Level Control Points:
- Pigs are accustomed to humans
- Minimize and appropriately use electric prods
- Design handling and loading facilities to minimize stress
- Separate health stressed animals
- Pigs are grown to maximum weight to maximize marbling
- Truckers certified in “Trucker Quality Assurance”
- Eliminated use of electric prods for loading and unloading
- Utilize only flat floor trailers if possible
- Provide appropriate space when trucking
- Monitor weather and adjust transport times and space accordingly
- Farm workers have completed training on “Animal Handling”
This group of pork producers has used this information to individually make changes on their farms to improve product quality. Moreover, this producer group has developed a branded product and a successful marketing program. This program incorporates quality assessments and continuing education as part of their value-added attribute bundle. This pork has been well received by wholesalers, retailers, restaurants and consumers.
Pork producers were able to learn more about their product, make comparisons and share information in a peer group, and learn recommended production practices that will improve their products quality attributes. This program has helped pork producers improve pork quality, gain entry into value-added markets, and secure repeat sales.
Buhr, B. and D. DiPietre. (1997) Front end guidance for value-added networks. National Pork Producers Council, Des Moines, IA.
National Pork Board. (2000) Pork composition and quality assessment procedures. E. Berg (Ed.). National Pork Board, Des Moines, IA. #04412.