If you're child is in 4-H and shows swine, you may wonder what the big deal about Pork Quality Assurance Training is all about. The Indiana State Fair required it beginning last year for those who exhibited at the state fair. Several counties have followed suit. In Johnson County, for example, whose hog shows are this week, anyone exhibiting must have either gone through a training session offered by the Extension youth educator, or taken a test over the subject.
The requirement is materializing because some packers are refusing to buy animals, especially 4-H animals, unless the members producing the animal have been trained in the basics of producing a safe product. Part of the training covers where to give sheets and drug withdrawal.
Some county fairs are following suit whether their buyer that usually takes the hogs from their auction has asked for it yet or not. The fear, insiders say, is that a packer that person deals with may ask for it at any time, including just before a fair, when it would be too late to train the exhibitors.
Common-sense practices for disease prevention are included in the training. Sensible practices such as not giving antibiotic shots in the ham area of the pig are stressed. Packers report that they still find instances of damaged muscle tissue in hams or other valuable cuts if a shot is not injected in the proper place, typically the neck area in swine. They also still report more than the desired number of cases where a needle broke off in the pig, and was left there. It's those kinds of abuses, often committed unintentionally by those without extensive training, that packers hope this program will minimize.
Whether the training helps or not, or how much it helps, might be up for debate. It typically consists of as little as an hour of training. Or if a member can't make the training, it may consist of a short discussion and then the member may be asked to take a test which he or she must pass. Done once a year for a short period, it likely means the 4-H'er still depends upon guidance from parents and perhaps a vet in proper treatment of sick animals in their project.
Some say it's a step in the right direction. If kids know how certain practices might harm animals or humans who eat the meat, they will be less likely to do it, officials hope.