Growing up, I can always remember all of my friends and most of my cousins showing hogs or being involved in swine production.
I, on the other hand, spent my time with beef cattle and sheep. I did give in one year and showed a hog at the county fair. That one year (and several years on a livestock judging team), made me realize that there was more to raising a hog and swine production than I really gave it credit.
One of the main reasons the pork industry is so important to Hoosiers is that there are 3,790 pork farms in Indiana that employ more than 13,000 individuals. Those operations alone contribute $2.9 billion annually to Indiana's economy. Nationally, Indiana ranks fifth in pork production by selling $974 million worth of hogs in 2007.
There are several myths which focus on pork production.
One is that family farms have overwhelmingly been taken over by large corporate conglomerates, ultimately damaging the pork industry and rural Indiana.
Truthfully, there has been a reduction in the number of farms in Indiana over the years. Those who have remained in pork production or who have entered into it recently have consolidated into large farms with large numbers of animals.
Today, farmers have to be more efficient to compete in a global economy. This trend is not only found in agriculture, but also in the business world since less than 50 percent of the companies on the Fortune 500 list did not exist in 1980.
Overall though, agriculture does remain a family business in Indiana.
There are individuals who say that pork producers and others in the livestock industry abuse their animals and place profits over the welfare of the animals in their care. However, many know that this statement is incorrect.
Livestock producers have to balance consumer demand for nutritious food products with the welfare of animals.
Pork producers have a moral obligation to provide good care for their animals and realize that the welfare of their animals directly affects their livelihood.
Thus, farmers work hard to ensure their animals are treated well.
Some believe that pork products are easily susceptible to many food-borne diseases and thus are not as safe as other food products. Actually, food safety is a top priority for Indiana's livestock producers. Pork producers work hard to ensure that customers receive high-quality, affordable food products.
Thus, every aspect of livestock care is regulated by state and national organizations and government agencies. Ultimately, all meat products are rigorously and repeatedly inspected.
Any products that do not meet the highest standards are immediately removed from the supply to ensure they never reach the marketplace.
The pork industry, like many Indiana industries, has to overcome myths, bad publicity, and consumer ideals to thrive.
One way that everyone can help those involved with any agriculture industry is by taking a moment and realizing that all the hard work and dedication that those involved actually put forth to make sure the product they are producing is healthy and safe for us to consume.
As always, if you have any questions, or would like information on any agriculture, horticulture, or natural resource topic, please contact your local Purdue Extension Office at 448-9041 in Clay County or 812-829-5020 in Owen County, or reach me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Purdue University is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution.
Upcoming opportunities available to you through Purdue Extension include:
* June 22 -- Calf Performance Program, Campbellsburg, 7 p.m. Register by today at 883-4601,
* June 23-24 -- 78th annual Indiana Farm Management Tour,
* June 26 -- Fifth annual Arts in the Park, McCormick's Creek State Park,
* July 1 -- Purdue Weed Day, Lafayette. Call 765-494-4656 to pre-register, and
* July 14 -- Nitty Gritty II, Indianapolis, 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Cost $80. Register by July 2 at www.infarmbureau.org.