In recent weeks, Virginia’s Smithfield Foods has launched a website to answer questions about hog production, in an effort to educate pork consumers, and help them feel more confident about the food they are eating. Kathleen Kirkham, Sustainability Coordinator for Smithfield Foods:
Smithfield: We’ve been involved in sustainability and NCSR work for about 10 years now. And one thing we’ve noticed in that time is that consumers are increasingly curious about their food. And who the people are that are making it, are they nice people, are they ethical, are they responsible. So, we’ve been trying to communicate back tot hem letting them know that we are those type of people, so we’ve launched this website and that’s just the next step in the kind of journey towards being more transparent.
SFN: You really do use invite the public to use this website to learn more about where their food comes from.
Smithfield: Definitely. There’s a section called “Q&A with Smithfield” and basically, you can go on, anyone can go on, and submit a question, and we’ll answer it via the website publicly, for everyone to see, either through video or text we’ll answer you by name, and let you know the answer to any of your questions. Of course, we’re on Twitter, Flicker, Facebook, all those things, so there’s multiple ways to get your questions answered about your food, and this is kind of our push to educate folks.
SFN: We would be remiss if didn’t mention the fact that the very day you launched this website the Humane Society of the United States filed an SEC lawsuit.
Smithfield: They did, and we’re very proud of our programs and so it was disappointing to hear of that lawsuit. Our lawyers are looking into it, and from what we can tell so far, it’s a frivolous lawsuit, and we’re very proud of our programs, and we stand behind them. And we would encourage folks that if they have questions about what we do to please come ask us about them.
SFN: Let me ask you; what is the one of the more common questions that you’re receiving thus far?
Smithfield: One of the more common ones is what is the schedule for phasing out of the gestation crate. And people are curious, and the answer is that we’re 100% committed to phasing those out, and we will be 30% complete with that transition by the end of December.
SFN: Oh, that’s outstanding. I would think that also antibiotic use would be another one that would be pretty common.
Smithfield: That is a very common question, and we actually have an industry-leading antibiotics policy that folks can check out on www.smithfieldcommittments.com if they’re interested in more information on that.
SFN: I guess the gestation crates also falls into…I would think humane treatment in general would be another one.
Smithfield: Yeah, I would estimate that about 80% of the comments we get are about the farming side of things, and not the processing side, because, as a vertically integrated company we’re involved in both. And I would say that I spend probably about 80% of my time talking about farms, and only about 20% talking about the rest.
And happy, confident consumers are repeat purchasers of pork products. Smithfield’s production arm, Murphy-Brown is located in Warsaw, NC.