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PQA certification a badge of honor

Hog Outlook: Pork Quality Assurance training is available for producers, youth and truckers.

Kevin Schulz, Editor

January 17, 2023

3 Min Read
Pork Quality Assurance sign
QUALITY CERTIFIED: Every American pig farmer and pig caregiver should be Pork Quality Assurance Plus certified, signifying they have been trained in proper animal care. Pig production sites can also receive certification. Courtesy of National Pork Board

You don’t need me to tell you how the U.S. and global hog industry has changed. From the type of hog being raised to the methods in which hogs are produced, pig farmers have seen a plethora of changes. For the most part, these changes have improved the health and welfare of the animals under our care.

American pig farmers have always produced a quality product for consumers, and that quality continues to progress. Along with the improvement in quality, producers have upped their game in the care of animals, striving to improve their practices.

As in a roller chain, the entirety is only as strong as the weakest link, as is the same with every hog farm and the entire U.S. pork industry. U.S. pork quality, both of product and level of care, depends on every caregiver, producer and entire production system all to operate with the same goal.

Providing farmers with information

It can be tough keeping up with the latest and best hog production practices. Still, even the most seasoned pig farmers can always improve their way of operating, and the National Pork Board’s Pork Quality Assurance program helps.

There have been various iterations of the program since its inception in 1989, but the framework has remained steadfast — providing a framework for significant, relevant food safety standards and improved animal well-being.

By now, every hog producer in America should be PQA-certified, and certification is good for three years. We are now up to PQA Plus, as the program has grown, and producers have options to receive training.

According to the Pork Checkoff website, producers have various options to receive training, either through face-to-face opportunities or access to an online course and exam.

A lot of state pork organizations sponsor PQA Plus training sessions, often as a part of their annual meeting or Pork Congress events.

More PQA options for producers

In addition to individual caregiver certification, PQA Plus also allows for a PQA Plus site assessment, which is “designed to evaluate animal care practices on farms and is conducted by a PQA Plus adviser.” This certification goes beyond what an individual knows, expanding to if that knowledge is being put into practice. The assessment will review records, facilities, equipment, animal care and well-being practices.

As we all know, farm families expose their children to the barns, and it is never too early to teach them the right way of working with animals. With that in mind, young caregivers are encouraged to participate in the Youth for the Quality Care of Animals program, which is a national multispecies quality assurance program for youth ages 8 to 21. This program focuses on food safety, animal well-being and character development.

Pork production doesn’t stop at the farm gate. While pig farmers properly care for their animals on-site, that care is turned over to others once those hogs are loaded onto a truck or trailer.

Anyone transporting hogs should obtain Transport Quality Assurance certification to ensure hogs are handled in a proper manner while in transport. If producers aren’t transporting their own stock, it should be recommended that haulers obtain TQA certification.

Consumers are continually wanting to know that their food is being raised in operations with high standards, and producers need to be able to boast that they do indeed have the quality of consumers’ end product in mind.

Schulz, a Farm Progress senior staff writer, grew up on the family hog farm in southern Minnesota, before a career in ag journalism, including National Hog Farmer.

About the Author(s)

Kevin Schulz

Editor, The Farmer

Kevin Schulz joined The Farmer as editor in January of 2023, after spending two years as senior staff writer for Dakota Farmer and Nebraska Farmer magazines. Prior to joining these two magazines, he spent six years in a similar capacity with National Hog Farmer. Prior to joining National Hog Farmer, Schulz spent a long career as the editor of The Land magazine, an agricultural-rural life publication based in Mankato, Minn.

During his tenure at The Land, the publication grew from covering 55 Minnesota counties to encompassing the entire state, as well as 30 counties in northern Iowa. Covering all facets of Minnesota and Iowa agriculture, Schulz was able to stay close to his roots as a southern Minnesota farm boy raised on a corn, soybean and hog finishing farm.

One particular area where he stayed close to his roots is working with the FFA organization.

Covering the FFA programs stayed near and dear to his heart, and he has been recognized for such coverage over the years. He has received the Minnesota FFA Communicator of the Year award, was honored with the Minnesota Honorary FFA Degree in 2014 and inducted into the Minnesota FFA Hall of Fame in 2018.

Schulz attended South Dakota State University, majoring in agricultural journalism. He was also a member of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and now belongs to its alumni organization.

His family continues to live on a southern Minnesota farm near where he grew up. He and his wife, Carol, have raised two daughters: Kristi, a 2014 University of Minnesota graduate who is married to Eric Van Otterloo and teaches at Mankato (Minn.) East High School, and Haley, a 2018 graduate of University of Wisconsin-River Falls. She is married to John Peake and teaches in Hayward, Wis. 

When not covering the agriculture industry on behalf of The Farmer's readers, Schulz enjoys spending time traveling with family, making it a quest to reach all 50 states — 47 so far — and three countries. He also enjoys reading, music, photography, playing basketball, and enjoying nature and campfires with friends and family.

[email protected]

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