Pork Quality Assurance

Meaningful label claims, validated by 3rd party farm audits, are key to earning the trust of consumers and enabling everyone to enjoy responsibly raised pork. That’s why swine producers participate in pork quality assurance programs. When consumers see a trusted label claim on their pork product, they are willing to pay premium price for it. This is because these marketing claims give them the impression that the pork they are buying is not only safe to eat but was raised sustainably. So what is pork quality assurance and how do these programs help consumers feel confident about the quality and safety of food?

Alert: Dont forget to check our beef quality assurance blog.

What is Pork Quality Assurance?

Quality and quality assurance have become commonplace words in the pork industry. The increasing pressure from consumers has challenged swine producers to raise pork responsibly and produce a quality product. However, there are many definitions of quality in the pork business. For some, it is simply leanness. For others, it means addressing consumers’ concerns regarding pork process control, food safety, animal welfare considerations, sustainability, and responsible antibiotic use. Swine farms have to follow best practices and guidelines that 

Pork Quality Assurance & Certification Programs

Pork quality assurance and certification programs enable producers and retailers to prove to consumers that their operations follows the highest standards for pig care, biosecurity, food safety, and sustainability. Hence, producers and retailers join certified pork quality assurance programs to be able to use marketing labels associated with them.

The term “certified" implies that a region’s regulatory body has officially evaluated a meat product for class, grade, or other quality characteristics. There are many examples of third party certification providers who get their programs approved by their region’s regulatory body.  In that scenario, the term “certified” must be closely associated with the name of the organization responsible for the “certification" process, e.g., “XYZ Company’s Certified Pork."

Here is how certification programs works with different players of the pork supply chain:

1) Farms

No pet care or quality assurance program can exist without a watertight control system. Pig farms are therefore visited annually and checked by independent auditors. This gives consumers the assurance that each farm meets the criteria for the environment and animal welfare.

2) Food Processors

Pork meat processing can be divided into three areas, slaughtering, meat cutting and further processing. Each player in the pork value chain has to follow a different set of SOPs in order to get certified. In case of meat processors, the certification body evaluates a meat product for class, grade, or other quality characteristics before giving a certification certificate. Compliance with other SOPs are also checked during the process. Once certified, these processors can label their products with the seal provided by the certification body.

3) Retailers, Restaurants, and Food Service Providers

While retailers carry certified products in their stores, restaurants and food service providers use certified ingredients in their menu offerings. Since they are the ones directly dealing with the end consumers, they have to make sure what they are selling to consumers come from swine operations doing the right things.

Pork Quality Assurance Certification Process

Production practices must be verified or audited by a trustworthy pork quality assurance program. Consumers place faith in this and retailers can use it. These programs conduct bi-yearly audits at registered farms to ensure that animals receive good care. After the audit, a farm receives a score along with corrective actions needed to get program certification. Only a certified producer can make the claim associated with the program. Certification is renewed annually.

Pork quality assurance programs validate responsible and sustainable production practices. Implementation of these program is a step by step process listed below to set-up, train, and verify compliance and ultimately acquiring certification.

Participating farms have to follow a set of standard procedures related to their program. The following areas are assessed during internal and third party audits:

– Animal handling and daily care

– Animal home pen living conditions

– Animal water tank cleanliness

– Animal feed nutrition, handling and delivery which follows principles for safety

– Antibiotic use on the farm (traceability as well as animal withdrawal records using drones for livestock management)

– Employee safety guidelines

– Biosecurity guidelines

– Sustainability practices and measurement

– Training and knowledge

– Record verification

Data Collection, Reporting, and Other Challenges

Most pig farms rely on paper-based processes for maintaining daily records on mortality rate, water usage, antibiotic use, withdrawal times, etc. This is the reason many pork quality assurance and certification programs rely on paper based processes where quality assurance program managers verify paper based documents to ensure compliance with program requirements. However, this makes it very difficult to track various activities, SOPs, and results related to the program.

Moreover, in many cases, farmers start filling out requirement documents and forms a day or two before the audit. This practice raises concerns about the authenticity of data gathered during the audits.

Furthermore, it’s very challenging for program managers to communicate corrective actions and then track them. Each farm is visited only a few times a year which makes the follow up process very difficult.

Using Technology to Digitize Pork Quality Assurance Programs

The pork industry needs to take things a step further. The best audit can only be achieved by means of a proactive approach rather than a passive, annual snapshot. So pork quality assurance companies need to have real-time insight into the performance of each farm. This is only possible by a combination of modern technology as well as old- fashioned farm visits.

A Farm quality assurance solution that can digitize the manual certification processes can enable quality assurance program managers to keep track of every activity. Such a solution can also enable two-way communication between the farms and certification program so that corrective actions can be done immediately.

Here is what needs to be done in order to transform a Pork Quality Assurance Program:

Web App for Pork Quality Assurance Program Managers:

– Add, view, and manage multiple pig farms.

– Add, edit, and update SOPs

– Ability to add, view, and manage users.

– Create customized programs based on a farm’s operations.

– Add, edit, and assign farm audits.

– View a farm’s performance statistics in real time.

Mobile App for Internal and 3rd Party Auditors:

– View a list of daily audit related tasks.

– View a list of assigned farms.

– View farm performance in real-time.

– View the audit checklist and submit observations against each item.

– Recommend corrective action based on observations.

Web App for Farm Managers:

– Manage and view farm performance levels in real time.

– Add workers in the system and assign relevant tasks.

– See a list of completed and pending tasks.

– View quality and compliance SOPs

– View self-assessment checklist

– View the corrective actions recommended by internal and 3rd party auditors.

Mobile App for Farm Workers:

– View a list of tasks assigned for a day.

– Take observations and submit data directly from the field.

– Capture photo or video to report an issue.

– Submit data offline and sync it when internet connectivity is available

– View a list of assigned farms.

– View the corrective actions recommended by internal and 3rd party auditors.

Making Pork Quality Assurance Audits Simpler, Quicker, and More Effective

Eliminating paper based tasks from the audit process, can significantly improve efficiency levels. When data is collected using a cattle management app, pork quality assurance program managers can monitor compliance levels and daily activities in real-time.

Auditors don’t have to go through tons of paper-based data in order to track and measure program compliance. Moreover, they can recommend corrective actions without being on the farm. Since farms can take immediate actions, it can greatly enhance program efficiency.

Program managers can create and download compliance reports at a click of a button. Since data is collected by farm workers on their mobile devices, reports of real-time data can be generated and used to make informed decisions.

Here’s an explainer video on how PigWise helped producers, production managers, and veterinarians use a digital solution to manage pig farms.

Some of the reports included are:

– Sick Pigs Identified vs Sick Pigs Treated

– Sick Pigs Treated vs Dead Pigs

– Cumulative Mortality Rate per Month

– Dead Pigs Per Day

– Water Consumption Per Day

– Cause of Death Pie Chart

Cattle Management App Development CTA