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Better tasting porkFat is where it's at

Agriculture.com Staff 07/29/2009 @ 9:48am

Your job as a pork direct marketer is twofold. Marketing: make the sale. Production: Raise a product with the wow factor -- a product that turns aa casual customer into a repeat customer.

If you have any experience direct marketing, you know what works for you. You've sold to family and friends and other contacts. You have an attractive display at the local farmers market. You advertise on the Internet and in local papers.

Most of the cost in marketing is making that first sale. The profits lie in the repeat sales. Do you have a pork product that knocks people off their feet? Do people rave to their friends about your pork?

If not, there is a good chance your pork is too lean. Fat is where the flavor is. I read that blindfolded taste testers could not tell the difference between pork, beef, or chicken meat if all the fat was removed from the protein. Fat is what makes the taste.

How did pork become too lean? In the 1980s, most market hogs had over an inch of back fat at a market weight of 220 to 250 pounds. The meat-packers began to demand a leaner hog and were willing to pay producers for it. They also asked for heavier hogs to increase their throughput. Swine geneticists took the cue and bred hogs that stayed leaner to heavier market weights.

Consumers didn't want fat either. Fat was demonized in the national press as contributing to the obesity epidemic. The Pork Checkoff jumped on the lean bandwagon and began The Other White Meat advertising campaign. It was highly successful, and consumers began to think of pork as a healthy, white meat.

Unfortunately, it wasn't adequately communicated that pork is actually a red meat and only appears white after cooking. Consumers began to select the lighter-color pork from the display case and were largely disappointed since this is also the pork that is most likely to be inferior. The pork industry calls this type of pork pale, soft, and exudative, or PSE.

Consumers thought they were buying a chicken-like product and in many respects they were. Pork, however, doesn't make good chicken. So we ended up with drier, less flavorful, more expensive than chicken, chicken-like pork.

Now nearly everyone has realized that the pork industry swung the leanness pendulum too far. The meat-packers changed their buying grids to no longer reward the super-lean hogs. Geneticists began to breed hogs with more intramuscular fat (marbling). But it takes a long time to change the nation's swine herd, and pork is still quite lean. This is where your opportunity as a direct marketer lies.

What is pork like this worth? We receive 70 cents per pound for the pork we market as halves or whole hogs. This is on the low end of what many direct marketers charge. The average price for commodity hogs in 2008 was 40¢ per pound. This is a difference of $90 per hog on a 300-pound hog.

Your job as a pork direct marketer is twofold. Marketing: make the sale. Production: Raise a product with the wow factor -- a product that turns aa casual customer into a repeat customer.

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