Signs of spring are sprouting everywhere. Warmer temperatures have me reminiscing about summer days, fairs and festivals. In Wisconsin, we never shy away from the chance to celebrate an industry or tradition. Just look at June Dairy Month! Although my June was packed with dairy breakfasts and events last year, one of my favorite festivities brought home the bacon with new knowledge of Wisconsin pork producers.
Working in my cubicle at the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection in Madison, I overheard some of my coworkers talking about a Pork Fest in Janesville. My curiosity peaked, I asked about the event and was quickly told it was something I wouldn’t want to miss.
As a dairy girl, I knew very little about Wisconsin’s pork industry. Excited to learn before Pork Fest, I quickly stopped by Jeff Swenson’s desk. Swenson is a livestock and meat specialist at DATCP who has a strong understanding of the economic and cultural impact of pork. Swenson told me most pork producers manage part-time or small, family-owned operations. In fact, we only have about 305,000 hogs in Wisconsin, but our industry is nothing to snort at. About 10,000 jobs are involved in various aspects of the industry, ranging from input suppliers to producers, processors, and handlers, according to the Wisconsin Pork Producers Association. We cannot forget about retailers and businesses that also benefit from the ripple effect of purchases.
The Wisconsin Pork Producers Association said the way they raise pigs has changed in the last 50 years. While advancements in farming methods, technology and economics help the industry evolve, farmers and processors still make it their mission to provide a safe, wholesome and secure food supply for families. Farms of all types and sizes understand their livelihoods are tied to the land and to the health of animals in their care.
The value of production from Wisconsin’s hog industry totaled $108 million in 2017, up nearly $23 million from the year prior. Cash receipts were valued at about $123 million, which was also an increase of almost $25 million from 2016.
Swenson explained how the pork industry plays a key role in our culture. We all know Wisconsin is famous for beer and bratwursts. Swenson said Wisconsin is the top importer of sows at the end of their productive lives. We use that meat to make bratwursts, and we are one of the best producers of that summertime staple.
As a consumer, I love the many options of pork available in the grocery store, and I admire the
nutritional value of each cut. Each market hog represents 371 servings of pork that are packed with key nutrients such as protein, thiamin, vitamin B6, phosphorus and niacin. Pork lets us eat healthy while enjoying the delicious flavors that we love as seven common cuts of pork are 16 percent leaner and have 27 percent less saturated fat than 20 years ago.
While we may still be months away from those summer days, we can always find an excuse to celebrate our pride for Wisconsin pork. Recipes, cooking tips and more can be found at wppa.org!