In challenging times for producers, the Pork Checkoff's domestic marketing efforts are paying off. In a news conference at the World Pork Expo, National Pork Board officials reported positive response to its consumer campaigns.
"The current consumer campaign, Pork. Be Inspired, is moving product at the retail meat case and in restaurants," says Chris Novak, National Pork Board CEO. "In the first quarter of this year, total pounds of pork sold at retail were up 9.9% over the first quarter last year and total dollars in sales were up 4.7%."
To further bolster consumer demand, the board launched a new summer marketing campaign this week to communicate the current relative value of pork, educate consumers on the new pork cut names and reinforce proper pork cooking by talking about the ideal range of doneness.
This new range of doneness follows the slogan, "cook it like a steak," Novak notes. This follows USDA approval of lower cooking temperatures for pork, down to 145 degrees Fahrenheit, in 2011.
"We know today that you can cook a pork chop medium rare," he says. "So many consumers thought you had to cook pork until it was well-done or overdone."
"This is a critical time for our farmers and a challenging year for the industry overall," says National Pork Board vice president Karen Richter, who has a wean-to-finish operation near Montgomery, Minn.
"For consumers, high prices at the gas pump and a tight food budget mean they're searching for bargains, but they still expect great taste and variety in meals. And that's good news for pork," she says.
New names help clarify pork cuts
In April, the National Pork Board unveiled new names for some traditional cuts of pork as a way to address the lack of consumer understanding of pork cuts and how to prepare them. Based on extensive consumer research, the new cut names were selected to enhance value in the meat cuts and new simplified labels were developed to better explain proper cooking techniques.
Pork shoulder roast is one of them – an example of a name that more clearly defines the cut of pork. "This does mean we'll have to say goodbye to names like 'pork butt'," Richter says, "but we believe consumers will feel more confident in their ability to choose and prepare pork that provides great flavor and versatility at a budget-friendly price."
"Pork butt," or "Boston butt," historically derives from being packed into a barrel – which was called a butt. The cut itself is actually from the shoulder area. "We are hopeful that consumers will be able to put that old name behind them," Richter says.
Just in time for barbeque season, the new porterhouse pork chop, ribeye pork chop and New York pork chop are also featured in the summer marketing campaign being promoted through national radio and online advertising, food media spokespersons and social media engagement. As a part of the campaign, consumers will be able to tap into online coupons that have proven effective in driving visitor traffic to pork-focused consumer website.
"We're optimistic that as we move through this summer, that it will help drive pork demand in the U.S.," Novak says.