Balancing Profit and Responsibility
Pig farmers know that business success requires doing the right things for animals, the environment and our communities. We are motivated to do what is right for our animals and the land, not only because it’s the right thing to do but also because it’s good business. Because the majority of hog and pig farmers also raise crops, we are aware that when land is properly tended and cared for, it continues to produce healthy crop yields. In the same way, healthy and comfortable animals grow and thrive, and this is what determines success for livestock farmers.
Impact of pig farming on nation’s economy
U.S. Pig Farming has a significant, global impact on food production and many related businesses. In the U.S., 55,000+ pig farms support 800,000 jobs nationwide and over 63,000 pig farmers raise over 22 billion pounds of pork each year.
Farm growth and modernization: Impacts on the agricultural landscape
Pig farming in America has changed dramatically over time. In 1982, there were approximately 480,000 pig farms, compared with 63,200 farms in 2014.1 Across all sectors of agriculture, the size of the typical farm in the United States has increased in recent generations. Technology and market demand have been the driving forces behind this shift. The tractor and other equipment used for planting and reaping crops and tending to livestock have increased efficiency for growing crops and raising animals. The supermarket industry also experienced consolidation, with corporate buyers requesting larger shipments of goods and food that is consistent in appearance, quality and flavor.
Food safety improvements
As farm sizes have grown, pork safety and pork quality has improved in the U.S. The safety of the food supply can be threatened by many factors, and ensuring food safety is of utmost importance to pig farmers. Farms with enclosed buildings make it more practical for farm personnel to control access and implement biosecurity safeguards. Many practices common on today’s pig farms help keep the food supply safe, from diagnosis and treatment of sick animals to minimizing spread of pathogens and diseases that can harm pigs or people.
Keeping pork affordable
At the same time, farmers have been very successful at keeping the price of pork low. The cost of producing pork has increased while the cost of pork to consumers has decreased by 20 percent since 1979.2 New technology has allowed farmers to provide better care for their animals while also expanding the size of their farms. As a result, larger farms create economies of scale that can keep prices low. Improved farming methods also have allowed pig farmers to improve the quality and safety of pork produced. In total, Americans spend 10 percent of their incomes on food — the lowest of any country.3 Advancements in all areas of agriculture have made this possible.
Changing dynamics have brought specialization, more consumer choice
Today, there are more than 63,000 U.S. pig farmers who raise pork to meet a wide variety of demands. Overall, greater efficiencies and growth in productivity have resulted in a more abundant, affordable pork supply in the United States and abroad. These changing dynamics also have fostered a variety of farm sizes and types. Some farms specialize in raising certain breeds, others focus on pigs at specific stages of development and yet others raise pigs to meet various consumer niche demands. Whether large or small, the basic tenets of animal agriculture remain the same: good animal care, stewardship of the land, production of safe, wholesome food and care for employees and communities.
1USDA, Hogs and Pigs Report (December 1977-2002); Livestock Operations (April 2004); and Secretary Vilsack Announces National Pork Board Appointments (2014).
2Pork Checkoff, Quick Facts.
3Farm Policy Facts.