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Indiana Welcomes Pork Buyers Team from Japan’s Ito Ham

Published: Aug 15, 2012
From the highest-quality chilled pork to pork for further processing, Ito Ham is one of the U.S. pork industry’s most valuable customers and one of the cornerstones that makes Japan the perennial leader in U.S. pork export value. USMEF Chairman Danita Rodibaugh and other key leaders in Indiana agriculture welcomed a team of meat buyers from Ito Ham last week for a firsthand look at the state’s pork industry. Funding for the tour was provided by the Pork Checkoff, Indiana Pork, the Indiana Soybean Alliance (ISA) and the Indiana Corn Marketing Council (ICMC).

The first stop was Indianapolis for the Indiana State Fair, where the Ito Ham buyers met with representatives from ISA, ICMC, Indiana Pork, Indiana Farm Bureau and the Indiana Department of Agriculture. They received a local perspective on how the state’s grain and livestock producers work together to produce high-quality pork that appeals to consumers across the globe. The team also had the opportunity to visit fair exhibits and see the state’s finest livestock on display.

In an on-site interview with Brownfield Ag News, Rodibaugh explained the objectives surrounding the team’s visit and the importance of each stop on the Indiana tour.

“Ito Ham has a key business relationship with Indiana Packers Corporation, so they market a lot of Indiana-raised pork at Ito Ham,” she said. “This tour not only forges a personal connection between Ito Ham’s buyers and the producers who are supplying their product, but it also gives them an opportunity to see the packing plant and to go on-farm and see how the animals are raised and handled. At Purdue University, they will not only hear from agricultural economists but will also experience our research farms and facilities. So they really get an opportunity to see every aspect of Indiana’s pork production.”

At Elanco headquarters in Greenfield, the team received a presentation outlining Elanco’s global commitment to producing safe food through its new Food Industry and Consumer Affairs Division. Throughout the presentation, the team was able to ask questions about the latest production and animal health technologies.

Next the group toured the hog farm operated by Legan Livestock and Grain near Fillmore, which is well-known for its innovative advances in environmental protection, animal health and food safety. Owners Beth and Nick Tharp provided the group with an extensive look at how modern technology and production methods are not only critical to their operation’s profitability and efficiency, but also its coexistence with neighboring farms and communities.

At Purdue University in West Lafayette, the group was hosted by Dr. James Mintert, assistant director of extension for agriculture and natural resources and professor of agricultural economics, and Dr. Brian Richert, associate professor of animal sciences. They provided a tour of the swine research facilities at the Animal Science Research and Education Center, provided insights on the drought’s impact on pork production and exports and explained the role the university’s research team plays in keeping Indiana agriculture viable for future generations.

The week concluded at Indiana Packers Corporation in Delphi, with an up-close look at the company’s processing facilities and the techniques it uses to supply customers in both overseas and domestic markets.

While the Ito Ham team left Indiana with a wealth of new information, Rodibaugh emphasized that the week was filled with invaluable two-way communication.

“The questions the buyers asked were very insightful because they help us understand what’s important to them and the concerns they are hearing from their customers,” she said. “The free exchange of ideas is very important because we need to know as much as possible about how they market our pork and which attributes they are looking for. And because both sides have a great appreciation for technology and modern production, we were able to communicate very effectively on that front as well. Visits like this one really help our pork industry work together with Ito Ham on a common goal – which is to please the Japanese consumer.”