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What Do International Pork Customers Really Want?

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U.S. pork exports have experienced significant growth since 2010 – increasing more than 50% in volume and 60% in value. This substantial increase can be attributed to the fact that the U.S. is a low-cost and consistent pork supplier in the global market.

“The strategy to diversify export markets is working, while year-to-date U.S. pork exports to China are down 21%, total U.S. pork exports are up 1% compared to 2020,” says Clay Eastwood, director of international market development for National Pork Board. “The intel from these reports and Checkoff-funded in-country promotions, in partnership with U.S. Meat Export Federation, are key reasons why the demand for U.S. pork continues to grow.”

However, a new report provides greater insight into ways U.S. pork can differentiate itself beyond these two attributes to continue to grow its global market share. The report, funded by the Pork Checkoff and prepared by Gira, a global research firm, builds on the success of the

The report points out three crucial areas where U.S. pork can stand out among its competitors in six key markets: Japan, Canada, Mexico, South Korea, Canada and Hong Kong. The three critical areas include:

•    Sustainability: International customers want to know more about U.S. pork’s commitment to sustainability. This includes understanding pork producers’ dedication to animal welfare and protecting the environment. Sharing the industry’s commitment to transparency, continuous improvement and education about production and processing standards differentiating U.S. pork from competitors.

•    Quality, Consistency and Service: U.S. pork has long been a low-cost, high-volume supplier but can differentiate itself by being seen as high-quality and highly consistent, both from a product and customer service standpoint.

•    Communication: Understanding cultural differences and expectations in business and delivering communication accordingly will position U.S. pork as a valued supplier. Specifically, international customers (importers, food service and retail) want to know more about order status and U.S. production and packaging standards.

Rupert Claxton, Gira meat director, says one of the key takeaways from this report reinforces U.S. pork is already doing a good job around many of these areas. This is a powerful message to take out to exporters, he adds.

“The work that's being done by National Pork Board and others, in terms of tracking where you are today, is all about being able to demonstrate progress in an accountable way,” Claxton says. “There are lots of claims being made around the world and it's no good just to be able to make the claim, you've got to be able to support that claim with some evidence.”

Show the World Market How You Raise Pork

It is going to be increasingly important that pork producers engage with export market requirements around key areas such as sustainability, animal welfare and health, Claxton says.

“Pork producers also play a critical role, beyond their Checkoff investment, in helping to differentiate U.S. pork in the global market,” says David Newman, past president of National Pork Board and a producer representing Arkansas. “I encourage all producers to request an On-Farm Sustainability Report and to create an AgView account. Both of the Checkoff-funded programs are free to pork producers.”

On-Farm Sustainability Reports help pork producers measure and document their commitment to continuous improvement. National aggregate data from the On-Farm Sustainability Reports can be shared with international customers to demonstrate U.S. pork producers’ commitment to sustainability and will allow U.S. pork to differentiate itself in the global market.

“Sustainability is certainly a huge topic right now and we want to tell the world the good story we have to tell,” Neman says. “The On-Farm Sustainability Report helps producers understand and identify areas where they could improve, or areas where they are doing some exceptional things. We're using that information in aggregated data to be able to talk about the impact our entire pork production industry has, and exporters and importers can use that information to leverage it.”

With the threat of African swine fever (ASF) looming, Newman says it’s also important for producers to sign up for AgView, a free opt-in technology solution, promotes business continuity for America’s pig farmers by making disease traceback and pig movement data available to the USDA and state animal health officials on day one of a foreign animal disease (FAD) outbreak.

“AgView will allow us to have data that could help us reopen our markets, because if we get ASF, we’ll lose our export markets immediately,” Newman says. “And that is obviously going to create an abundance of products here domestically that we weren't planning on. Being able to regionalize and reopen market access is going to be a very crucial part of what we're doing to drive some value back for survivability for U.S. producers.”

Zero-Carbon Pork is on the Horizon

Dermot Hayes, an Iowa State University economist, believes there is enormous opportunity for U.S. pork exports all over the world.

“It’s not only because we are a low-cost producer, but it’s because of the accounting that the Pork Board can provide to justify its claims on sustainability and animal welfare,” Hayes says.

The Gira report affirms the importance of showing how progress is being made in the U.S. pork industry.

“If you don't start with some sort of mark of where we are today, then you can't show the gains that you're making. No one around the world is expecting people to come and go, ‘Yeah, look, we can give you zero carbon pork today.’ But what they are going to ask for is to show that you are improving from where you are,” Claxton says.

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