Marketing Pork

Here is a great little story by Danny Vinik from Politico’s The Agenda on how so-called marketing boards are surreptitiously turned into lobbying boards.

Industries with a large number of producers find it difficult to organize collectively because of the free rider problem. Mostly, that’s a good thing because it prevents cartels. Collective action, however, could also be used to perform research or marketing that’s good for the industry as a whole but too expensive for any small subset of producers. In theory, therefore, some type of collective action could be beneficial and in agriculture governments have created checkoff programs which force producers to pay a tax to fund collective goods.

pigsCheckoffs exist for dairy farmers, mushroom producers, and even popcorn processors. Critics say they violate economic freedom and distort the market; big corporate farmers, they allege, easily find ways to influence the boards and siphon the money off to push their own causes.

“In one sense, it’s a classic case of the larger producers are the more powerful political forces within these organizations,” said Dan Glickman, the Agriculture Secretary at the end of the Clinton administration who largely supports checkoff programs.

For the unhappy hog farmers, the current problem started with the 1985 Pork Law, when Congress set up the National Pork Board and required all farmers to contribute. Today, hog farmers must hand over 40 cents out of every $100 in revenue from pork sales. The board uses the money, totaling nearly $100 million a year, to conduct research and promote the pork industry, but is not allowed to lobby.

But as Adam Smith said “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.” Quite so. And in this case by creating a National Pork Board the government is providing the meeting hall and paying for the conversation. According to the law, the money from the checkoff program isn’t supposed to go for lobbying but here is where the story gets interesting.

You may recall the slogan, “Pork: The Other White Meat.” The slogan hasn’t been used for years but the National Pork Board still pays $3 million a year every year for the rights. Why would the Pork Board pay millions for an unused slogan? The key is who they are paying. The slogan is owned by National Pork Producers Council. The NPPC is a lobby group and you won’t be surprised to know that it is closely connected with the NPB (having once even shared offices).

…critics say the two groups have never been as separate as the law calls for, and now are essentially colluding through a deal that lets the Pork Board funnel money to the NPCC by assigning an absurdly inflated value to the “other white meat” slogan; the money then goes to promote the NPPC’s lobbying agenda.

A neat trick. The story is also a good object lesson in Mancur Olson’s thesis about how special interest groups grow in power over time, slowly choking off innovation as they cartelize the economy.


Unions are more bad than good, whether be a union of labor, or a union of producers.

lobbying is marketing

"Pork: The Other White Meat" has done more to lower the quality of pig products than any other action besides the insanely high cooking temps required by the FDA. Theres a world of difference between a well marbled aromatic medium rare pork chop and the dried out, well-done chunk of bland chewiness that makes up the typical pork chop served in this day and age.

Yep. Serve it to me pink.

Yeah, the only kind of pork I eat is pulled pork.

We've all had the message drilled into our brains that pork must be cooked until well done because of special pork pathogens.
I'm not sure how true that is, though. Is undercooked pork really that dangerous? (Or, more precisely, is it 'undercooked" if it's still pink in the middle?)

The overcooking was required to get rid of trichinosis. Trichinosis is essentially unheard of in the US pork supply nowadays. So no, no reason to cook it any differently and pink pork is perfectly fine.

Emril Legasse told me over lunch about ten years that the 160 "rule" exists because it gets rid of the pink - not for health reasons - he claimed he NEVER let a piece of quality meat get over 140 degrees.

The Germans eat raw pork (or is it beef?) as a kind of sushi. Actually goat is eaten raw in the Philippines I've read.

Wha'd I miss? Are "the insanely high cooking temps required by the FDA" the result of a conspiracy within the Pork Board or lobbying by the Pork Producers Council?

Direct from FDA web page "Food Safety for Moms-to-Be: Safe Eats - Meat, Poultry & Seafood":

"Welcome to Safe Eats, your food-by-food guide to selecting, preparing, and handling foods safely throughout your pregnancy and beyond!
"Protein in meat, poultry, and seafood is an important nutrient in your diet, but it can also be an ideal environment for some harmful bacteria. Here's how to keep harmful bacteria at bay and your family safe.

"Clean Is Key!

"Your first steps in food safety are...
Wash hands thoroughly with warm water and soap before and after handling raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
Wash cutting boards, dishes, and utensils (including knives), and countertops with soap and hot water after they come in contact with raw meat, poultry or seafood.

"Cook raw meat and poultry to safe internal temperatures. Always use a clean food thermometer to check the internal temperature of these foods. Make sure it goes straight into meats, but doesn't come out the other side and touch the pan. Cook meat and poultry to these temperatures:

"Cook beef, pork, veal, and lamb roasts, steaks, and chops to at least 145° F (63° C), with a 3 minute rest time.

"Ground Meat

"Cook ground beef, veal, lamb, and pork to at least 160° F (71° C).

"Cook ground poultry to 165° F (74° C).


"Cook all poultry to minimal safe internal temperature of 165° F (74° C).

"Consumers may wish to cook poultry to a higher temperature for personal preference."

Thus the FDA cooking guide for people at risk does not call for "insanely high cooking temperatures".

Of course, this is obviously because the evil Obama is out to poison Americans with bad pork...

Maybe it's because of his culture - Hawaiian - where good pork is important.

New USDA Guidelines Lower Pork Cooking Temperature
May 24, 2011
Contact: Cindy Cunningham
National Pork Board

New cooking guidelines from the nation’s food-safety agency confirm Pork Checkoff research that shows pork can be consumed safely when cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, followed by a three-minute rest time. The guidelines were announced today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS).

The new recommended temperature is a significant 15 degrees less than what was previously recommended and typically will yield a finished product that is pinker in color than most home cooks are accustomed to.

“Our consumer research has consistently shown that Americans have a tendency to overcook common cuts of pork, resulting in a less-than-optimal eating experience,” said Dianne Bettin, a pork producer from Truman, Minn., and chair of the Checkoff’s Domestic Marketing Committee. “The new guidelines will help consumers enjoy pork at its most flavorful, juicy – and safe – temperature.”

The revised recommendation applies to pork whole-muscle cuts, such as loin, chops and roasts. Ground pork, like all ground meat, should be cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Regardless of cut or cooking method, both the USDA and National Pork Board recommend using a digital cooking thermometer to ensure an accurate final temperature.

The new recommendation evolved from a 2007 Pork Checkoff-funded research project conducted by Ohio State University to measure consumer eating preferences. As part of that project the university researchers tested how various end-cooking temperatures affected eating preferences. But the researchers needed to know if temperatures below 160 degrees would be safe if that turned out to be consumers’ preference.

That question resulted in a Checkoff-funded research project with Exponent Inc., an engineering and scientific consulting firm, to conduct a risk assessment to evaluate any food-safety implications of cooking temperatures within a range of 145-160 degrees Fahrenheit.

The risk assessment found that cooking pork to an internal temperature of 145 degrees was equivalent to cooking pork to 160 degrees. Checkoff-funded research conducted by Texas A&M supports the fact that meat temperature continues to rise after being removed from the heat and the reality that “resting time” between cooking and eating is at least that long. Therefore, FSIS agreed that the cooking temperature for pork could be lowered.

The USDA guidelines for pork now mirror doneness advice for other meats.

“It’s great news that home cooks can now feel confident to enjoy medium-rare pork, like they do with other meats,” said Guy Fieri, a chef, restaurateur and host of several food-focused television programs. “Pork cooked to this temperature will be juicy and tender. The foodservice industry has been following this pork cooking standard for nearly 10 years.”

The new recommendation reflects advances in both food safety and nutritional content of pork in recent years. On average, most common cuts of pork are 16 percent leaner than 20 years ago, and saturated fat has dropped 27 percent. In fact, pork tenderloin is now as lean as the leanest type of chicken – a skinless chicken breast.

In addition to the new recommendation to cook pork to 145 degrees Fahrenheit, followed by a three-minute rest time, the USDA food preparation guidelines advise the following:

Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often
Separate: Don’t cross-contaminate
Cook: To proper cooking temperatures
Chill: Refrigerate promptly
Additional information about cooking pork, including recipes, is available at, or

The National Pork Board has responsibility for Checkoff-funded research, promotion and consumer information projects and for communicating with pork producers and the public. Through a legislative national Pork Checkoff, pork producers invest $0.40 for each $100 value of hogs sold. The Pork Checkoff funds national and state programs in advertising, consumer information, retail and foodservice marketing, export market promotion, production improvement, technology, swine health, pork safety and environmental management.

Give up bacon. That'll fix 'em!

Pork Check Off collect a marketing levy from domestic as well as imported pig meat AFAIK, so as a European producer I would argue that this is also an indirect form of protectionism. US standards of production would be widely regarded as lower than European standards for example.

"US standards of production would be widely regarded as lower than European standards for example."

Would you be able to corroborate this claim with some kind of link? I'm not doubting you, I'm just curious.

Just ask any European pig farmer.

I think it is common knowledge that production standards in meat and dairy in the US are lower across the board than almost any other Western country because they emphasize the number of kg of production per $ input rather than quality.

I gather you've never been to another country?

I gather the same of you.

If it's common knowledge, then it should be easy to find some sort of document or explanatory article attesting to this fact. It can't be too common, as this is the first I've ever heard of it.

A few examples, use of antibiotics as growth promoters was banned in the EU in 2006, yet it is still allowed in the US. Ractopamine, a feed additive is still allowed but is banned in many other countries, including China. GM (while highly debatable) illustrates the more cautious approach taken in the EU. There are many other examples. For a more comprehensive analysis, related more to animal welfare, here is a link to a paper Tyler highlighted earlier this year:

These examples should lower meat quality, not raise it.

There might be other reasons to discourage use of antibiotics or to treat animals humanely, but meat quality is not among them.

Lord Action - I think here "meat quality" is defined a little more broadly than how tasty the cut of meat is when it comes off the BBQ. Perhaps the meats may seem comparable when you bite into it, but it contains many hormones and pharmaceutical products which are banned in other states.

Are Trade Associations not considered forms of collective action? I think they often serve to provide industry level research for their individual members' benefit (allows some limitation on free-riding but I tend to think that is an over used boogieman)

"The story is also a good object lesson in Mancur Olson’s thesis about how special interest groups grow in power over time, slowly choking off innovation as they cartelize the economy."

How has innovation been choked off in the pork industry? Productivity has never been higher:

"From 1977 to 2012, commercial pork production in the United States increased 174 percent from slaughtering more and bigger hogs. Public and private research and development during the period led to efficiency gains that have altered the structure of the pork industry. Some of the gains in productivity are attributable to increases in the scale of production and technological innovation. A major contributing factor is genetic improvement of animals from lard-producing hogs prior to the 1980s to leaner meat-type hogs, which is evident in improvements in meat quality and weight gain per animal. Average dressed weight of barrows and gilts (young male and female hogs, respectively) has increased 25 percent since 1977, from an annual average of 163 pounds in 1977 to 203 pounds in 2011.

The restructuring of the U.S. pork industry has also resulted in an increase in the number of live hog imports from Canada, as well as a shift in the makeup of those imports. Prior to 1990, nearly all live hog imports were slaughter hogs from Canada that went directly to pork processing plants. A shift in the live-import mix occurred in the mid-1990s after implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the rise of contracting in domestic pork production. The U.S. and Canadian hog industries are now closely integrated, which has furthered the evolution of U.S. production. Since 2005, more than 60 percent of U.S. live hog imports have been feeder pigs from Canada, to be fed to their slaughter weight in the United States. These Canadian-born hogs are a key component of U.S. pork production. According to ERS calculations, 5.5 percent of U.S. pork supplies come from live hogs imported from Canada."

Looks like highly effective lobbying with great social payoff to me.

It's true, pork is pretty cheap. There was a steep drop in bacon prices over the last year, by my observation.

However, this does suggest that the R&D costs may be being foisted off on the taxpayer, rather than the pork-eating consumer.
Effectively people who don't eat pork are subsidizing pork-consumption by people who do.

Low prices for product X are not a "great social payoff" if you're not a consumer of product X.

Yes, the pork producer taxpayers paying the 40 cent tax per $100 of revenue.

"The National Pork Board administers a competitive grants process to select and fund projects researching areas of importance to the pork industry. |

"These documents include lists of proposals selected for funding based on priorities established by producer-led committees and assisted by scientific advisors...."

From the 2014 report:
ANIMAL SCIENCE\Animal Science Evaluation of contributions to seasonal reproductive inefficiency. 14-052 Rempel, Lea USDA, ARS, Northern Plains Area
Effects of melatonin feeding before and following breeding in mature gilts and primiparous sows to reduce failures in estrus expression and pregnancy establishment associated with seasonal infertility in summer and fall. 14-081 Knox, Robert V. University of Illinois
Capturing genetic potential for greater sow lifetime productivity -
Preliminary (Phase 1) Trial 14-149 Foxcroft, George University of Alberta
Productivity Optimal dietary protein for the development of gilts - Part 1 14-235 Vallet, Jeffrey USDA, ARS, Northern Plains Area
Modelling pork curing for control of Trichinella spiralis and Toxoplasma
gondii 14-134 Hill, Dolores USDA, ARS, Beltsville Area
Prevalence and characterization of Salmonella from Head Meat and Trim for Ground at Pork Processing Facilities 14-203 Harvey, Roger B. USDA, ARS, Southern Plains Area
A systematic review of comparative efficacy of the carcass wash
interventions designed to reduce pathogens on swine carcasses 14-287 O'Connor, Annette Iowa State University
PUBLIC HEALTH\Producer/Public Health, Workplace Safety and Zoonotic Disease Occurrence and Movement of Antibiotics, Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria and Resistance Genes in Tile-Drained Agricultural Fields Receiving Swine Manure Application 14-015 Soupir, Michelle Iowa State University

Lots more research projects listed.

There is research funded out of general fund taxes, but those go back to at least President Jefferson.

Ahh, well, not that I have RTFA, it appears the complaint is that the NPPC favors the interests of large corporate pig farmers over those of small independent ones. Yet the small independent ones are still compelled to pay into the NPB fund - which of course pays the NPPC.
So they are basically being compelled to subsidize the lobbying efforts of their competitors. My bad.


And what of the anchor hogs?

Wouldn't work. Swine float.

Productivity and innovation are not interchangeable. Ford increasing production is not equal to Tesla starting production. From the PorkPAC section of

PorkPAC leverages and multiplies the pork industry financial stake in the political process.
PorkPAC contributions increase the pork industry’s visibility and access to candidates who share our views on legislative and regulatory policies.

So what if a producer does not share "our views on legislative and regulatory policies"? From their 2012 Forum:
MOTION: The National Pork Producers Council will work to eliminate distance restrictions, utilize weight limits as per road traveled and secure clear exemptions from Federal Department of Transportation rules and regulations for farmers/private individuals that are hauling their own property and are operating not-for-hire.

MOTION: The National Pork Producers Council supports approval and use of technology that allows continued and potentially expanded use of coal, fossil fuels and high capacity transmission lines.

So suppose you have an innovation in small, close to market swine farms that derive their energy from the pig generated waste products - something that may sound appealing to a number of buyers and would be in line with foreseeable political restrictions. Quite possibly the lobbying efforts of Big Swine prevent the conditions that would lead to your innovation achieving critical mass.

GMO, antibiotic use, country of origin labeling are all areas that Big Swine is active that could impact innovation (for good or for bad...). Life is bad when Big Swine is aiming at your prize pig, life is worse when you have to buy the bullets that they shoot your pig with.

So the industry has become very good at driving up pounds and driving down flavor...

Heritage breeds are so much richer in taste - and fattier than what has become a pretty bland - but uniform pork.

Berkshire pork is awesome and making a comeback domestically thank to the Japanese who saved the breed - Kobuto

Yep, the government holds guns to the heads of supermarket shoppers and forces them to buy the cheaper foods.

But I'm glad you are with the hippies and other back to the earth freaks going back to the old farming of labor intensive small production without the benefit of modern industrial progress.

What economists never seem to argue for is higher prices, spending more money, etc to create higher paying jobs that attract farmers producing better food "experiences". Instead economists always call farmers who do manual labor ZMPs that should be paid less and ideally replaced by technology, robots, mined chemicals.

"What economists never seem to argue for is higher prices, spending more money, etc to create higher paying jobs that attract farmers producing better food “experiences”."

That's an excellent point. And one in which I think undermines to mild extent the principles of free trade i.e. there is no accounting for taste / culture.

Yeah, the dietary advice of the 1970s continues to negatively affect the market.

They're still cutting fat out of products and replacing it with sugars, even though sugar is probably more responsible for obesity and diabetes.
I still see things like low-fat yogurt with added sugars everywhere, as if it's a healthy snack.

"The other white meat" is pretty feeble. How about "Pork: a crackling good meat"? Or "Pork: satay 'nuff for you?" Or even, to sell more in the Middle East: moHAMmed.

Egyptian pigs have jobs.

Jan - that was a great comment. Few people will remember the idiotic "swine flu" phony epidemic of a few years past, where the PC decision to call the flu after the (possibly mistaken) animal vector, rather than after the country vector, as we did in more honest days (Spanish flu), meant that the Mexican flu was called swine flu giving to idiots the cherished license of idiots to act on words rather than facts: the idiotic slaughter of pigs in Egypt ensued. And the fact that the slaughtered Egyptian pigs, acting according to the rules of reality, did not, after being slaughtered, eat the trash they usually ate, meant that the uneaten trash was given increased license to ferment and produce, as a reasonable person would fear and expect, deathly vectors that would have been annihilated by the people-friendly work of Egyptian pigs. In this case, PC killed. Or maybe I made this up. In any event, Jan , you made me laugh (I don't eat pork by the way, although I would not completely turn down a hospitable offer of a boar-meat-based dish from someone I trusted).

"more honest days (Spanish flu)": what? It had nothing to do with Spain. See WKPD.

dearieme - not arguing with you, but "more honest days" is not the same as "more accurate days"...

Would a kickstarter-like budget system work to (partially) solve the free rider problem? In other words, set up a marketing plan, collect pledges, but offer refunds if a certain amount/# of pledges from the industry aren't collected. Obviously 100% participation would be hard to get but it seems like one could at least decide how much participation is needed and shoot to exceed it.

Here's an evil idea:

Create a kind of icon used on social media which you can attach to your Facebook/Twitter comments, which indicates that you have pledged the appropriate amount to XYZ cause. Anyone who does not show the appropriate icon can then be easily targetted for harassment and ostracism.

anti christian lgbt rainbow hate flag is a good example of this

Ohhhh, poor you ... is someone stomping on your to discriminate and hate based on selective readings of your favourite piece of indoctrination?

Love your neighbour.

i saw it on breitbart, it must be true

I don't see anyone getting harassed for not displaying a rainbow flag on their window yet. We're clearly not getting our anti-christian lgbt hate on hard enough.

One argument for meat producers joining together is they need to try and offset the grain controlled Ag Department...

The food pyramid is a good example of how one group - grain growers can affect our lives and health - too many carbs and carbs kill!

Now it's Tabarrok who has gone off the reservation. Esoteric writing is the key to a philosophical education. Two pigs, Indeed! Vinik lives!

There could be a film about a power struggle in special interest politics called "The Mancurian Candidate"

The biggest casualty of this is the time they used their trademark rights to shut down my new White-Hispanic dating site PorQue ("Where the other whites meet (tm)".

pig sale revenue only generates slightly more than 200 million a year ? in America ?

Farm subsidies are a scam. All they do is keep the marginal producers alive.

That's not all they do. They also make it difficult and sometimes bordering on impossible for farmers in developing/competing countries to accumulate capital and become more competitive over time. It is an indirect cause of massive continuation of poverty in the developing world.

The US agriculture sector is the most protected subsidized regulated and evidently manipulated market on earth.

Yet it is highly productive, and US farmers are regarded as the best on earth.

Are we so sure China will fail?

Nowadays it is difficult to differentiate between 'normal meat' and 'glued meat'

"The U.S. Department of Agriculture insists transglutaminase is safe, but OHSU endocrinologist Dr. Bart Duell cautions that fused meats need to be cooked to at least 165 degrees to kill any bacteria. That's the temperature of a well-done steak."

But here's the problem: the outside of a piece of meat comes in contact with a lot of bacteria making its way from slaughterhouse to table. Usually cooking a steak on the outside will kill all that off. The center of a single cut of steak is sterile, that's why you can eat it rare. But glued pieces of meat could contain bacteria like E. coli on the inside.

"Say somebody wants that filet steak rare, the center temperature is not going to reach the temperature that will actually kill the bacteria," Terje said. "And that's also a really, really happy environment for things that can kill you."

Or they could go with the times and use sous-vide and not worry about it at all even for rare meat.

The picture means I won't eat bacon for at least a day.

"The slogan hasn’t been used for years but the National Pork Board still pays $3 million a year every year for the rights. ... The NPPC is a lobby group..."

Isn't that against the law?

Oh, bless your heart.

AlexT: "The story is also a good object lesson in Mancur Olson’s thesis about how special interest groups grow in power over time, slowly choking off innovation as they cartelize the economy"

Not sure about innovation in the food industry, since most of the time they use trade secrets (btw, one example, you can patent a recipe but most chefs prefer trade secret).

But since my relations here raise pigs, and I help them (I'm into chicken farming) I can say from first hand experience that both pigs (in particular) and even chickens are given sometimes injectables or solutions to drink that make their meat or eggs unfit for consumption for a while, until the drug is out of their system. I agree you probably don't need government regulation to fix this problem, but some sort of private or public regulation and testing is called for.

Small aside: our family dog was killed by a car (he was always stupid around cars). A poor man, who looked protein starved, saw it happen, asked for the carcass, and unceremoniously dragged off Fido to provide dinner. He was a skinny terrier species who just had an illness and was bony anyway, but I'm sure he made a good meal for this malnourished man.

You let someone eat your family dog for dinner?

Bravo! I admire your resistance to sentimentality, sir!

A guy who calls a hooker his girlfriend has a fairly unusual approach to sentimentality.

Oh the horror, the pork industry is spending 3 (!) million dollars lobbying the government or something. It's a conspiracy against the public. We must crack down on these evil pork producers and open the borders to immigrants so that justice is done.

The bad economy is now striking. Trading is one thing that helped me financially. Googling Superior Trading System is the best thing you can do if you want to learn how to trade.

The reason I don't enjoy pork as much as I used to -- NOT ENOUGH FAT!! Animal fat is good for us.

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