Why Texas?

By Cambry Cline, TPPA Summer Intern

While the Lubbock summer heat swelters outside the conference center, national and Texas pork industry leaders gather for a series of educational sessions and networking opportunities. With notepads out and the first cup of coffee finished, producers quiet their conversations as Dr. Brett Kaysen begins to present the answer to the question: Why Texas? As a Senior Vice President of Producer and State Engagement from National Pork Board, Kaysen represents all producers across the country, but he challenges Texas producers to consider their assets on a larger scale.

Scales are very important to the pork industry in the state of Texas. Thousands of exhibitors hope to cross the scales at major pig shows. Producers strive to send lean product down the carcass scales at the processing plant. Kaysen explained that no matter the scale of a pig farm in Texas, the impact on the pork industry is huge.

“The state that we’re in has a lot of livestock shows, and these are huge com­ponents of the pork industry,” Kaysen said. “If you just zoom out and look at the state of Texas as just a general supply chain piece, that component to the pork industry is huge.”

On the largest scale at the National Pork Board, Kaysen explained how he works for the producers of the coun­try. National Pork Board is consumer focused, and producer led. Without con­sumers, producers do not exist; there­fore, he said it is important to remember that any scale of producer, whether their focus is generating show pigs or not, is in the food business.

Kaysen said a third of the popu­lation of the U.S. lives in five states. Those five states are: California, Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, Florida. In efforts to increase demand and pork consumption, the National Pork Board has identified key markets where the households are buying more fresh pork products, and they are focusing on retail partner relationships. Texas’ population is a prime target for mar­keting strategies.

“What you have in Texas is you have a lot of people.” Kaysen said. “The other part of this is that you have a re­ally interesting demographic and it’s ever changing.”

In Texas, 40% of the population is Hispanic in nature. The Hispanic preference today often con­sists of ground pork combined with vegetables. The African American community in Texas is more focused on processed products. Younger generations are contradicting previous trends with current healthy diet trends and advertising tactics in conjunction with meatless protein products. Kaysen said the fresh pork franchise might be the answer.

Kaysen said every Texas pork produc­er can be an entrepreneur with pork products through the production chain or with non-select show pig marketing. He said the local food market is real and growing. By focusing on nutrition, ethical treatment of people and animals and sustainability, Texas producers can be trusted and verified by consumers by showing pork is raised by real people coming from real farms that really care about their animals’ welfare.

Zoom out to the overall domestic scale, and Kaysen said Texas’ contribu­tion to pork exports is an opportunity to grow. In the United States, 25-27% of pork products including those from Texas are exported.

“Does Texas have any kind of water around it?” Kaysen asked. “If you’re from Pampa, you say no, but if you’re from Galveston, you say, yes. That’s important. Does Texas have a lot of cold storage available? You stack a lot of meat. Yes. Do you have a heck of a rail system? Abso­lutely. Do you have a great road system? Yes, you do. You’re a huge part of this whole supply chain.”

The international pork export market is currently largely dependent on exports to Japan and China. The goal of the National Pork Board is to diversify in­ternational markets which can impact Texas producers.

The biggest threat to this ven­ture is African Swine Fever. If an outbreak were announced, all exports shut down.

“The number one key to success to prevent any foreign animal diseases from happening is don’t let it hap­pen,” Kaysen said. “I would ask us all to play a role in Texas. It’s essential business for all of you in the room. You and our other colleagues in the show business can be part of the solution. Step one is your premise identifica­tion. Step two is hope.”

Kaysen describes himself as a support­er of the producer. He said he believes in advocating for those who fund the Pork Checkoff, and he argues that without showing pigs growing up, he might not be in the position he is in currently.

“If [kids] show a pig, but they become a lawyer or something else outside of the pork industry, do you think they’ll still be an advocate for it? They better be, or we screwed up,” Kaysen said.

Confidence and sportsmanship can be instilled in young people through the competitive Texas show pig industry, but Kaysen said he believes these principles need to be examined on a larger scale.

“What I worry about at times with the show enthusiasts is we see each other as competitors, and we don’t think about what the true competition is,” Kaysen said. “We may compete pig versus pig in the ring, but the true competition is competition for time, resources, and other passions.”

He said his passion is to make sure Texas producers know the Pork Checkoff is committed to all pig farmers around the country.

With the population, demographics, infrastructure, and show pig production, Kaysen described why Texas can be incredibly valuable to the pork industry on a national scale. He challenges the smallest to largest producers to zoom out and consider the pork business at a domestic and state level, and ask the question: Why not, Texas?

“I still think the greatest asset you have in your state is something you’re really going to want to hold on to that is really important, and it’s talent,” Kaysen said. “You produce a ton of young talent in the show pig sector. At the end of the day, that show pig is a just a vehicle for developing young leaders.”

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