BLOG: Presenting about the P of Pigs

31-01-2014 | | |
Editor of Pig Progress / Topic: Pigs around the world
Vincent ter Beek, Pig Progress editor
Vincent ter Beek, Pig Progress editor

I had wanted to talk about the subject of the ‘Fourth P’ for some time. The opportunity arose when I had the chance to present at this week’s IPPE exhibition in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. I knew where to find a series of recent research supporting my angle. So over the last months I set to work and prepared a nice presentation.

Summarising, I wanted to outline the recent tendency in Europe to take into account the perspective of the pig when developing pig housing, management, health and nutrition concepts.

This means experts are not only wondering how we can make the pigs grow more efficiently with a bit more of this vaccine or a little bit more of that ingredient – but they are asking a different question. How can we provide better life standards for a pig without losing out on meat quality (People), profitability (Profit) and effects on the environment (Planet)?

Ready for my journey across the Atlantic, I imagined what it would be like – and mostly what comments and questions I would have. Upon departure from Europe, at the airport, I was surrounded by Dutch, Belgian and German travelers. The airport has several bins, one for each type of trash. I was reading my paper – and as every day, themes like sustainability and welfare were high on the agenda.

I closed my eyes and imagined a couple of animal welfare friends shaking their heads when they would hear me speak of the pig’s perspective. “Such a hypocrite! He is talking about welfare but he is still involved in meat production business.” Were these voices right? Perhaps I should have made a stronger statement?

Arriving in Chicago for a stop over, and waiting for the flight to Atlanta, I observed my next flight’s companions around me again. Many people had got burgers and fries at a nearby McDonald’s or Kentucky Fried Chicken. Loads of paper, napkins and large drink cans were being used by people munching away. Sustainability? Animal welfare? They just wanted something to eat.

I closed my eyes again and imagined some of these people listening to me, shaking their heads and wondering what the bleep I was talking about. “If people want to pay for things like that, they will pay for it. Don’t go and force it onto them.” Of course, I thought… They are right! Had I forgotten about what is happening in China, Vietnam, Philippines? Booming markets – they just want food. And they need a lot. Full stop!

The next day – and the day before the speech – I visited an outdoor pork producer near Athens, at about 200 km from Atlanta. Georgia’s climate allows it, so you’ll find outdoor producers here and there in the state. He said he was taking his hat off for conventional producers, but it wasn’t just something for him, to work in the smell of pig excrements all day. And he didn’t want that for his pigs too.

Give me some more of his kind and I will have an audience which will nod all the time during my talk, I thought.

On my way back to Atlanta, the snow set in. The next day, Atlanta’s road system had turned into a public ice skating rink – so only those who had business at the IPPE expo showed up.

I had a nice, small group of listeners, who asked me some questions out of interest and suggestions. People came up to me asking for the pdf. And they gave me a warm round of applause.

Now it is your turn to let me know what you think. For the presentation, click here for the pdf. I welcome every comment.

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