Pork producers expanding, creating more opportunities

October is National Pork Month. Pork is considered “the other white meat” and is a healthy alternative to red meat.

According to the Minnesota Farm Guide, the pork industry is experiencing a major growth spurt. A growing world population and improving U.S. economy is helping to drive that growth spurt. The Minnesota Farm Guide says the U.S. percent share of world pork exports has gone from single digits in the early 1990s to more than 30 percent in recent years.

Meanwhile, expansion leads to challenges and opportunities. Public criticism of the pork industry centers around animal welfare and health. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals accuses the pork industry of keeping animals in severely cramped pens and in filth.

Of course, the growing demand creates more opportunities for agriculture entrepreneurship and employment. Minnesota ranks third in the number of pigs its farmers raise and second in value of pork producers. And that pork producing expansion can be seen right here in southwest Minnesota.

The Independent profiled some local pork producers in its annual Pork Producers special section, which is inside today’s newspaper.

Boerboom Ag Resources is one of the larger pork operations in Lyon County. Like the industry itself, Boerboom’s expansion has happened during the past five years. But Boerboom just doesn’t lead by the number of pigs it produces, it also leads in innovation, animal welfare and health.

According to its general manager, Greg Boerboom, the company grows and produces most of the corn and soybeans that are used in the feed for the pigs. A tour offered by Boerboom to the Independent revealed how the right mixture of grains, vitamins and other materials are used to feed the livestock.

The pigs are also held in spacious pens that are monitored for temperature and cleanliness. Boerboom stresses his company takes the health of its pigs very seriously. Workers are required to shower before entering the barn, and shower afterwards. They also wear protective clothing.

Trucks that haul grain and pigs to different locations are also meticulously washed inside the company’s truck washing facility.

But it’s not just big operations like Boerboom following important safety procedures. The Independent also profiled the Rialson family pig operation in Cottonwood. The Rialsons do chores for the pigs that are owned by Boerboom. Tony Rialson explained that the feeder operation is bio-secure. They have to wash their hands going into the barn and coming out. They have to wear coveralls and rubber boots while working with the pigs.

“Bio-security is a big part of pork production,” Ashley Rialson said.

Another area pork farmer, Adam DeCock, runs his operation near Ghent and also works with Boerboom. DeCock said pork producers are required to take quality assurance training and wear bio-secure protective wear. DeCock also said he likes to keep vehicle traffic away from the holding barns to prevent contaminants.

The pork industry in southwest Minnesota and in the nation is definitely on an upswing, and should have the confidence of consumers that pork producers here are following safety and healthy procedures.