Dave Reedy manages a large pork operation for Murphy-Brown, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, in southwest Missouri. Reedy spoke at a recent meeting of the Ottawa Kiwanis International about the pork industry as a whole and what it offers consumers who would prefer something other than beef or chicken.
“Pigs are 75-percent leaner than they were in the 1950s,” Reedy, who has been in pork production for more than 40 years, said. “Pork is safer, leaner and more nutritious than it’s ever been in the past.”
Reedy is responsible for the production of about 40,000 sows at the farrow-to-wean operation. The animals are harvested at about 5-1/2 months, weighing between 265 and 280 pounds. The southwest Missouri operation conducts breeding techniques that encourage the best animal production, Reedy said. They take great care, he said, to ensure the pigs are cared for properly, thus producing more meat. The controlled environment — with about 25 pigs per pen — helps limit disease and ensure the pigs grow at a controlled weight, he said.
“Healthier pigs equals more meat,” he said.
There are 1,500 hog farms in Kansas. And of these operations, 310 produce more than 95 percent of the state’s pork, according to the Kansas Pork Association. Kansas ranks 10th in the U.S. in hog and pig inventory, producing about 2.7 percent of the nation’s total. The U.S. is the top pork producer in the world.
Pork production also has become more environmentally friendly, Reedy said. In farms in Iowa and Illinois, farmers are using pig manure as a fertilizer, recycling it into their crop fields. Additionally, swine inputs about 0.35 percent of all greenhouse gases into the environment, Reedy said, making it less harmful than someone driving a car to work.
Pork loin is as lean as skinless chicken breast, and the seven most common pork cuts are 16-percent leaner than 25 years ago, Reedy said, citing a U.S. Department of Agriculture study. The additional leanness of the meat allows it to cook faster with less danger of contracting a disease from the meat, he said.