Pig Producers Meet for Pork Congress in Mpls. to Talk Economy and Innovation

Updated: 01/17/2013 6:59 AM KSTP.com By: Naomi Pescovitz

It is America's "other white meat" and in Minnesota, pork is a multi-billion dollar industry. This week, two thousand pork producers are in the Twin Cities for the Minnesota Pork Congress at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

David Preisler, Executive Director of the Minnesota Pork Producers Association, says Minnesota has become known for adapting the latest technology. During the conference, farmers took a closer look at the latest innovations. Much of this year's trade-show focused on pig comfort.

"A comfortable pig tends to be a healthy pig, and obviously it gives us a product that's safe for consumers," Preisler said.

"If the consumer isn't happy and has trust and faith in us that we're raising a product that they can feel confident in to consume and eat, then we have no future," said Kevin Hugoson of Hugoson Pork.

The economy was also at the top of the agenda. The long-lasting drought has caused higher feed prices and farmers are hoping for rain.

"We are all hopeful for a lot of different reasons that we get rain that starts this spring into the summer, it will be best off for everyone," Preisler said.

"We're in the red right now, it can vary so much from operation to operation, but we've had high feed costs through last summer because of the drought," Hugoson said.

"About 70 percent of the cost to raise pigs, which obviously turn into pork, is the feed that we feed those animals. And so if the feed is very high priced, then eventually that ends up being passed on," Preisler said.

Preisler says consumers will likely know more about any rise in pork prices closer to summer.

"We could have food prices that actually go down if we get really good rainfall, we could have them go up if we don't. And it's one of those things that's really in the control of mother nature, and we're just going to have to wait that one out for right now," Preisler said.

The USDA is predicting a 3 to 4 percent rise in pork prices compared to last year.

Pork is a $7 billion dollar industry in Minnesota. Together, Iowa and Minnesota raise 45 percent of the nation's hogs.