By David Preisler, Executive Director, Minnesota Pork Producers Association
We are entering our second season of Oink Outings, an exciting initiative that communicates your story and your long-term perspective to consumers whose preferences drive retail and food service companies’ pork purchasing and distribution decisions. The Minnesota Pork Board (MPB) staff worked with a public relations firm to create and implement Oink Outings tours and booth events.
Oink Outings tour members are influential metro and suburban moms. Some are leaders in their geographical neighborhoods, while others have a significant social media presence as bloggers. Our goal is to start conversations on pork and pork production with tour participants who will share their experience and not just keep the information to themselves.
Oink Outings tour day begins with a pork cooking demonstration by a professional chef and then continues to a pork producer’s farm for an inside look at the barns and the pigs.
The Oink Outings moms tour Minnesota hog farms to see where their food comes from and to engage in conversation with the producer. The vast majority of the moms say they serve pork to their family but are curious about how hogs are raised. Their questions ranged from “What does a market pig weigh?” to queries on environment, animal health, and what they’ve heard in the news. Yes, the question of pens versus stalls does come up, which allows us to tell your side of the story as a part of real conversation—rather than preaching at them.
Their questions on cooking pork gives us an opportunity to provide them with information necessary to be regular consumers of your food product, such as how to maintain the juiciness and tenderness of pork by cooking it at lower temperatures. To ensure an enjoyable eating experience for pork consumers, the National Pork Board invested Pork Checkoff funds into research that shows pork can be safely cooked to 145° F (followed by a 3-minute rest). On the legislative side, the National Pork Producers Council educated those who are responsible for food safety regulations about the research supporting the lower cooking temperature.
Nicollet County pork producer Judy Bode explains activities that take place in their farrowing barn with Oink Outings tour participants.
This will also be the second year for Oink Outings booth events. This spring and summer, the MPB will have pork producers at 25 farmers markets, community festivals, and zoos in the Twin Cities area.
At the Oink Outings booth, pork producers visit with consumers and the general public on pigs and pork while MPB staff hand out reusable Oink Outings shopping bags, pork recipes, cooking information, and apply removable Oink Outing tattoos to kids.
Booth event questions are similar to those asked during the tours. To help inspire conversation between the farmers and booth visitors, the MPB donates one pound of ground pork to Second Harvest Heartland for each pork- or pig-related question. Last year, the MPB’s pork donation fed nearly 2,000 Minnesota families. This year, we hope to surpass that amount.
While other state pork associations have educational programs, Minnesota’s Oink Outings campaign is unique and original. The National Agri-Marketing Association recently recognized Oink Outings with the Golden Agricultural Relations Council Excellence Award.