Clearly, there's a lot of ground to cover. But an offshoot of the beef sector's daily battle to re-establish global markets has been the benefit to the pork industry. By combining ramped up demand with clever marketing, pork producers are enjoying banner times.
The National Pork Board, which administers the promotional efforts of the industry, claims "Don't be Blah" was added to "The Other White Meat" because research exposed barriers to demand growth in key demographic ranges -- particularly urban women, ages 25 to 49.
Advertising campaigns can be subjective and often change more frequently than the weather. But one thing is certain -- these are good times for pork producers. And a look at consumption numbers, both domestic and foreign, reveals demand that is anything but blasé.
According to the Economic Research Service, per capita consumption of pork in America has grown substantially since "The Other White Meat" campaign was implemented in 1987.
Annual consumption rose from 45.6 pounds per person in '87 to nearly 50 pounds per person in 1999. In 2003, the most recent year for which data are available, the number declined to 48.5 pounds.
Beef producers, on the other hand, saw their market share erode during the same period. Per capita beef consumption declined to 62 pounds per person in 2003 from its high of 69.5 pounds in 1987.
Chicken consumption grew the most during the time period, rising nearly 46 percent to 57.5 pounds per person in 2003.
According to the Meat Export Federation, U.S. pork exports rose 27 percent in 2004 to 2.2 billion pounds. The increase of 463 million pounds from 2003 marked the 13th consecutive year of record U.S. pork exports.
U.S. hogs appear to be replacing cattle in key export markets due, in part, to foreign bans on U.S. beef imports. Japan, for example, purchased 16 percent more pork in 2004 than it did in 2003. Pork exports to Mexico and Canada also grew last year. Border battles over Canadian hog exports to the U.S. continue, however. This week the Bush administration announced its final determinations in its antidumping and countervailing duty investigation of live Canadian hog exports.
Upholding a preliminary ruling made last fall, the U.S. Commerce Department on Monday ruled that Canadian producers had sold hogs at unfair low prices in the U.S. and must pay duties which average more than 10 percent of sales. The case now goes to the International Trade Commission, or ITC, which is expected to make a ruling by April 18. Higher duties imposed by the U.S. have been in effect since last October, and are being held in special accounts until the case is finalized. If the ITC overturns the ruling, the funds would be refunded.
Petitions requesting the investigation were filed by U.S. producers who claimed pork prices had plummeted due to a flood of Canadian hogs crossing the border. Canadian pork producers counter that U.S. farmers are not being harmed by the imports and are, in fact, enjoying favorable prices -- a contention that may be difficult to refute with the April Lean Hog contract above the $70 mark.
According to the Commerce Department, the number of hogs imported to the U.S. from Canada has risen steadily from 5.7 million head in 2002 to nearly 9.5 million last year.