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Real Pork brings research to consumers

As the number of farmers decreases, the perceived distance between consumers and agriculture seemingly grows.

Producers work hard to show the public how dedicated they are to feeding the world and how technology plays a role in meeting that huge responsibility.

Thanks in part to social media and farm visits, producers provide the public with glimpses into their lives, how they care for their animals and tend to their crops.

Katie Sanders, Extension specialist with North Carolina State University, said it’s critical to connect evidence-based science to consumer’s daily lives to provide them with information to use as they make decisions related to their food and meet the consumers where they are.

Sanders is part of the Real Pork Trust Consortium, comprised of scientists from several universities who answer consumer questions about pork and pork production.

They conduct research and share the results to educate consumers, building trust between farmers and consumers so they can make informed decisions about the food they eat.

The Real Pork Trust Consortium includes Iowa State University, University of Georgia, North Carolina State University, North Carolina A&T State University and University of Minnesota.

Members of the consortium spoke at the World Pork Expo in Des Moines June 5.

Alexa Lamm, professor at the University of Georgia, described feedback from consumers.

“We have to start by understanding where consumers are at,” she said. “We have conducted listening sessions with consumers on both coasts, and the preliminary data we’ve gotten back is that they’re focused on food safety and the healthiness of pork. They also care about animal welfare and sustainability.”

The consortium has been identifying influencers to work with to spread the word about pork’s nutritional value and ease of cooking, as well as conducting surveys to provide insight into the messaging that should be used.

“The most personal choice we make is what we consume and put in our bodies, so every consumer feels connected to the ag industry,” Lamm said.

“Because of that, we have to communicate effectively about the food you produce and the practices you use,” she continued. “So instead of providing recipes, for example, we take the scientific research from our studies and break it down into easily understandable information that a consumer can go to when they have a question about the science behind a recipe.”

Nicholas Gabler, professor at Iowa State University, said the consortium is working toward creating a process where the research results, educational efforts and science communications messaging can be found under one umbrella.

Pedro Urriola, assistant professor with the University of Minnesota, said that as the pork industry continues to evolve, it’s important to have research that focuses on those changes.

“We should have a research portion that communicates where we are today and where we are going. That research is needed,” he said.

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