By KRISSA WELSHANS and JOY PHILIPPI
WITH a growth rate outpacing all other meats, pork continues to be the fastest-growing protein in foodservice since 2011.
According to Technomic Inc.'s "2015 Volumetric Assessment of Pork in Foodservice," pork's popularity in the food industry continues to grow.
The study found that total pork sold through foodservice outlets reached a record 9.8 billion lb., reflecting a volume increase of 533 million lb. from 2013, when the survey was last conducted. This volume is slightly higher than the 462 million lb. growth experienced from 2011 to 2013.
The pork category increased 2.6% in 2015, outpacing the average growth for protein of 0.7% and the total foodservice industry growth of 1.2%.
"We are pleased to see the continued growth of pork in foodservice," said National Pork Board president Derrick Sleezer, a producer from Cherokee, Iowa. "The volumetric study shows that even during a time period when we saw record-high pork prices and low inventories, pork continued to be the strongest performer in the foodservice industry, underscoring pork's growing popularity."
Since 2013, processed pork has driven growth of the total pork category, increasing 2.8% on an annual basis and making up 78% of the total volume. Sales of fresh pork grew 2.0%.
The four main categories driving growth for the pork category were bacon, processed ham, breakfast sausage and ribs. Sales of these products represented 65% of the carcass-weight equivalent.
The study also found that in categories where both uncooked and precooked pork offerings existed, uncooked pork grew at a slightly faster rate than precooked pork over the past two years — at 3.4% and 3.2%, respectively.
In categories where bone-in and boneless pork were available, sales of both versions increased since 2013, with boneless pork growing at a slightly faster rate.
"Pork is a versatile protein that is being leveraged around the country by foodservice operators who want to deliver flavor, inspiration and innovation across their menus," Sleezer said. "Pork producers are proud to provide safe, wholesome products that can fit into any menu."
The study also found that of the 28 pork product categories reviewed, 19 demonstrated positive sales growth. Carnita meat and pulled pork were the fastest-growing categories, with compound annual growth rates of 13.2% and 13.1%, respectively. Both of these categories almost doubled since 2013.
Notable growth was also seen in Canadian bacon, bratwurst, shoulder/butt, prosciutto, pork hocks/shanks and chops. Use of bacon and processed ham grew by 195 million lb. and 93 million lb., respectively, from 2013 to 2015. These items had the highest volume among all categories.
"When it comes to the three major foodservice day-parts, breakfast leads the way, with pork gaining popularity at lunch and dinner," Sleezer said. "It's clear that pork is on the menu across all foodservice segments. Full-service and limited-service restaurants represent about two-thirds of all pork volume sold."
Seasonal pig stress
Pork producers know that high summer temperatures can lead to heat stress and poor pig performance, but they may not know how long those effects can last and how much they cost if not addressed correctly.
These topics have been the focus of the pork checkoff's newest educational opportunity, "Assessing & Understanding the Impact of Seasonal Loss of Productivity," a free, four-part webinar series that started Aug. 4.
The four webinars were designed to deliver research-based information to pork producers and create greater awareness of the impact seasonal productive loss can have on their operations.
"The checkoff's animal science committee is pleased to again bring this type of research-based information to all producers this year," Chris Hostetler, director of animal science at the National Pork Board, said. "The subject of the series affects all producers, regardless of farm size or location, yet producers have few tools to combat the effects of summer heat. However, being aware its long-term impact is the first step."
In the first of the four presentations, Iowa State University animal science professor Dr. Lance Baumgard discussed how the economic impact of the loss of productivity due primarily to seasonal heat stress is directly related to the underlying biology of pigs.
Baumgard cited an economic analysis conducted by Dr. Steve Pollmann, director of operations for Murphy-Brown West, that found that the pork industry loses approximately $900 million annually due to heat stress. These losses, according to the analysis, were split evenly between the grow/finish and reproductive phases of production.
The initial webinar focused on the positive impact of environmental conditions and explained how making changes to equipment, establishing new nutritional protocols and making dietary changes could positively affect the metabolism of the animals.
In the second webinar installment, Dr. Tim Safranski, associate professor of animal science at the University of Missouri and a state swine extension specialist, presented research data regarding the impact in utero heat stress has on subsequent growth, composition and reproduction.
The results of this research project suggest that heat stress in developing embryos could have a significant effect on the subsequent performance of pigs.
In the third presentation of the webinar series, Dr. Shelly Rhoads discussed research on the impact in utero heat stress has on subsequent lactation performance and the performance of offspring.
The results of this experiment indicated that in utero heat stress has long-lasting and transgenerational effects on measurements of swine productivity.
The final webinar, to be held Aug. 25, will feature Dr. Jason Ross discussing the biology of seasonal infertility to develop mitigation strategies for swine. He will focus on how selecting heat-tolerant females may improve reproductive performance during the heat of summer.
Pork producers and other swine industry professionals can view the webinars and read a summary of each report's findings on the National Pork Board website at www.pork.org/animalscience.