This week I had the opportunity to visit the World Pork Expo for the second year in a row. This year I had a much longer trip. Rather than driving from Adel, Iowa just west of Des Moines to the Iowa State Fair Grounds, I made the trip up from Kansas City.
However, other visitors came from much further. This year, as many know, marks the 25th anniversary of the Expo, which drew about 20,000 pork producers and industry professionals from 38 different countries in 2012. This year also drew a diverse crowd, with visitors from over 39 countries, including China, Australia, Ireland, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
This of course includes journalists, as well as members of the academic community – I actually met an American Studies professor from California working on a book about pig culture and history in the United States, which is pretty interesting (not to mention ironic) with my background in both agriculture and American Studies.
A lot has changed
In the last year, not to mention just the last few weeks, a lot has happened in the pork industry. The evolution of production in the last 50 years overall is a huge topic. As I've mentioned, even for me, living in an urban center in the Midwest doesn't give me the exposure to agriculture living on a farm does
Pork production and agriculture in general have gone through a lot of changes over the years. With less than 2% of the U.S. population farming, it's easy for this portion to miss something. Pork is no exception. As the professor mentioned to me, fitting it all in one book is a difficult task.
The exhibits in the Varied Industries Building were a perfect example. Technology and equipment to suit modern hog production packed the building. This includes everything from modern hog slat and pen designs and nutrient management systems to ways to incorporate group sow housing like electronic sow feeders – things that 25 years ago when the Expo started, wouldn't have been there.