National Pork Board to Meet in Seattle

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The NPB Board of Directors will meet for its September board meeting in Seattle, WA Sept. 11-12. As part of the Checkoff’s ongoing implementation of the business-to-business marketing model, it is important that board members have direct contact with the thought leaders and trend setters in the food, banking, venture capital and technology industries. That is why this meeting will include NPB-exclusive tours of the site operations for Costco, Google and Amazon, and will have guest speakers from Google, Wells Fargo, Thrive Ag Venture Capital and the Ag banking industry. Executives will share information about current consumer and producer markets and how emerging technology is disrupting traditional business operations. National Pork Board CEO Bill Even highlights this meeting and industry trends. In addition, Even comments on the recent African Swine Fever outbreak and its implication for U.S. pig farmers.


Don Wick


Bill Even, CEO, National Pork Board




Don Wick: 00:00 From the Pork Checkoff in Des Moines Iowa, it’s Pork Pod. Pork Pod, a look at the hot topics in today’s pork industry. The Pork Checkoff is working for you through various forms of research, promotion, and consumer information projects. I’m Don Wick speaking on behalf of the Pork Checkoff, and today our guest is Bill Even, CEO of the National Pork Board. The National Pork Board board of directors will be meeting for its September board meeting in Seattle, Washington, September 11th and 12th. Bill, let’s talk about it. What can we expect at this meeting?

Bill Even: 00:33 So the National Pork Board directors opted to head to Seattle, Washington for their September board meeting and there’s a purpose behind that when you look at the number of technology companies and food companies that are based up in the Pacific Northwest and the influence they have on the pork industry. It’s important for us sometimes to get out of the Midwest and actually spend some time directly with the folks that are influencing both, you know, the rules around pig production as well as pork as a food. So you think the board is going to be meeting with Costco, and a tour of the Amazon Go store, the new Amazon pilot store where there’s no checkout registers or cashiers. You go in and you pick the items you want off the shelf and walk out and it bills you automatically. We’re going to be touring Google’s Seattle headquarters and meeting with a number of their executives as we start to understand how people buy things online and how they actually search for questions they have about pig production. And then we’re shifting gears and we’re going to meet with a couple of folks in the ag venture capital industry, Wells Fargo and Ag Thrive, two different venture capital arms.

Bill Even: 01:46 And then we also have an ag banking and economics panel. They’re going to be visiting with the board, kind of giving us a next five-year look as to what the ag economy looks like. So it’s a very robust agenda, starting at 6:00 AM every morning and going hard throughout the day, making sure that we’re fully understanding what’s happening in the world around us.

Don Wick: 02:08 Certainly when you take a look at some of these emerging technologies versus a more traditional business like production agriculture, pig production, how do you see the two jiving together?

Bill Even: 02:20 So here at the Pork Checkoff, we’re responsible for understanding and helping pork producers on the pig production side, as well as understanding how the downstream folks market pork as a food. So there’s really those two legs, two legs of the argument, pig production, pork as a food. So let’s look at some emerging technology things, you got, whether it’s blockchain, gene editing, sensors in the barns for animal health, artificial intelligence, and the virtual assistants that are helping you order food and just overall automation that’s happening in the industry. And there’s roles for both pig production as well as pork as a food for all of this. That’s the reason the National Pork Board has established a new position. We’ve got a director of emerging technology that’s really tasked with understanding how these disruptive things are going to impact pig production or pork as a food.

Bill Even: 03:14 So to give you a couple of examples. So you look at blockchain and where’s that going to be deployed? Well, first it’s going to actually, companies are going to deploy to try to figure out how they save transaction costs, of how you drive costs out of the system and lower the cost of operation. But it also has a role to play in understanding transparency from a sustainability story from pig production. So it’s gonna show up in a couple of different ways. Gene editing, technology that’s actually on the ground living in pigs today. It’s active in plants, as well as in editing the human genome for diseases. There’s an application for pig production, but then you also have to understand, well, what’s consumer acceptance look like in pork as a food, from a gene edited animal.

Bill Even: 04:04 Those are questions we’re going to have to manage with the Checkoff. As you walk down the line, you’ve got sensors for animal health and this is beyond just, you know, a camera in a barn, trying to observe the pigs, but the ability to do thermal imaging to see if a particular pig is running a temperature. The ability to use sound to understand if there’s particular animal sounds or squealing or if the building is quiet and peaceful. Those are all indicators that there’s something going on in the barn. Believe it or not, facial recognition is actually in place and in play and working for animals. Whether it’s pigs or for cattle, that technology is already out there and in the market. And then maybe the last leg I talk about is the role of artificial intelligence. And where we see that showing up right now is in virtual assistants.

Bill Even: 04:56 So whether it’s the Google home device or the Amazon Echo or Apple Siri product, you know the, if you’re sitting in your kitchen and you say, Hey Alexa, get me x or order me pork, we need to understand how that actually operates in the system and influences {inaudible}, excuse me, consumers decisions on how they buy food. So this stuff is here tomorrow or I should say tomorrow is already here is probably the way of looking at it and the Pork Checkoff needs to understand how do we engage in that so that we can help move product and have confidence in pig production.

Don Wick: 05:34 Bill, it sounds like an interesting medium. I’m curious, certainly a tough economic environment then in pig production today. Will the board focus on some of those challenges that the producers are facing?

Bill Even: 05:46 Absolutely. We’ve got an ag banking panel coming in to talk about what the current landscape looks like for pork production. We’ve had a very strong growth in the US pork industry in the past number of years, new packing plants being built, new production facilities and farrowing facilities being built and, consequently, the areas of tariffs and trade have put some uncertainty into the market. So we’re going to spend some time understanding what’s the short term and the long run look like in the ag economics area for pork production. The board is getting ready to do it’s next round of strategic planning starting in November, and so you really need this snapshot of where’s the vision of where this industry is going to be at and economics is going to impact that.

Don Wick: 06:32 Of course, a lot of attention right now focused on what’s happening in China and the African Swine Fever. I know the Pork Checkoff has been working collaboratively with others in the industry to really prepare, to be alert to some of these foreign animal diseases.

Bill Even: 06:49 Yes, African Swine Fever, very obviously, very serious disease for pork producers. The good news is, it’s not transmissible to humans, so there’s no risk to people there and pork is always safe to eat. So there’s no issues there for consumers that they need to worry about. But for producers, as they think about the health and welfare of their animals, it’s very important that we keep this disease out of the United States. It’s been around the world, first identified, you know, nearly 100 years ago in Africa, hence the name. And there’s, it’s present in Russia, and China, and some places in eastern Europe. And so understanding where the disease is at and making sure that we’ve got biosecurity in place to prevent the disease from moving around and infecting other herds, that is very important. There’s no vaccine for African Swine Fever. And so producers don’t have many options should it happen to show up in their operation.

Don Wick: 07:50 The Pork Checkoff has a lot of resources available just to keep producers aware on What kind of things are available, Bill?

Bill Even: 08:01 Yeah. So the Pork Checkoff has worked very closely with National Pork Producers Council, the Swine Health Information Center, the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, as well as the US Department of Agriculture to compile a list of the things that producers need to know from a biosecurity standpoint. We have that all on, and that stands for foreign animal disease. So producers, anywhere, anytime, can log onto Take a look at what those resources are and kind of refresh their biosecurity plans and make sure that they’re doing what they need to do to be diligent around protecting their animals from any virus that might happen to come in contact with their farm. So really good biosecurity plan goes a long way in helping keep your pigs safe and healthy and the Pork Checkoff is very proud to be part of a consortium that’s working closely with the industry. And on that point, our chief veterinarian and staff, along with those from around the industry, are meeting with USDA all day tomorrow in Washington DC to sit down and really take a look at what is the Department of Homeland Security – Customs and Border Protection doing to protect us at the ports and then what do we need to be doing inside the country with our state veterinarians and producers and producer organizations to ensure we get the word out around good biosecurity.

Don Wick: 09:32 Bill Even from the National Pork Board. Thank you for listening to this edition of Pork Pod. For more information on this topic or the Pork Checkoff itself, visit