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NPPC focuses on sustainability on world stage [PODCAST]

Maria Zieba, vice president of international affairs at the National Pork Producers Council, talks about some of her work representing the U.S. pork industry overseas, and how the industry is focusing on sustainability, among other things.

Fs Podcast Maria Zieba Title Card

NPPC focuses on sustainability on world stage (8:42)

Ann Reus: Hello and welcome to the Feed Strategy podcast. I'm your host, Feed Strategy senior reporter Ann Reus.

Maria Zieba is vice president of international affairs at the National Pork Producers Council. She recently sat down with me to talk about some of her work representing the U.S. pork industry overseas, and how the industry is focusing on sustainability, among other things. Here's our conversation.

Hi, Maria. Thanks for speaking with me today.

Maria Zieba: No problem. Thanks for having me on.

Reus: You recently attended the first-ever Global Conference on Sustainable Livestock Transformation, hosted by the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO. Tell me about the event and your role there.

Zieba: Yeah, so I was very honored to be able to have a badge and attend the conference in Rome at the FAO. The FAO is part of the United Nations and plays a really critical role within agriculture. This is the first conference of such on livestock and the future of the livestock industry. Of course, there's so many different ways that people are trying to dictate how livestock is produced around the world. And so, this really brought together over 100 countries and organizations from around the world to have that first-ever discussion on the future for our industry, for the U.S. pork industry, but beyond that, the global industry on meat production generally — not just on pork.

Reus: The event focused on sustainable livestock production. What are some things U.S. pork producers are doing to improve the sustainability of their operations?

Zieba: Well, it's very important to note that for the U.S. pork industry, we are the model for sustainability. Over the past 60 years, our producers have reduced their use of land by 76% and water by 25% and energy by 7%. Those were some of the topics that we, as we had sidelined conversations with governments and other NGOs, we discussed that: That the use of technology within the U.S. pork industry and production that has made us highly effective. It's also been very good for the environment and U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. We’re only .4% of U.S. global greenhouse gas emissions, and that's a story that we need to tell more of and that's part of why I was at the UN having those conversations.

Reus: What are some barriers to sustainable pork production and how can they be overcome in the future?

Zieba: Well, here within the National Pork Producers Council and my role as vice president of international affairs, the biggest issues that we see and that we help identify are the overregulation and burdensome regulations that are coming into effect that we see around the world, and that can be exported to the United States. So that's part of my role and responsibility at NPPC, is to make sure that we are not only following what is happening around the world, but that we ensure that those practices aren't exported to the United States. So that means a lot of making sure that, for example, the Green Deal that is part of the European Union strategy on agriculture, that that doesn't become part of the global standard. Earlier this year, we were invited — National Pork Producers Council was invited — to the World Trade Organization, and we got a chance to speak on the use of technology within the U.S. pork industry and production and how that leads to a more sustainable and efficient way of producing pork. And what we're really ultimately trying to do is make sure that, as international standards are developed, that those have the U.S. voice included, but beyond that, that we are part of the messaging and can craft the messaging and the regulations that will ultimately affect our producers.

Reus: You also recently attended the World Meat Congress. What was the focus of that meeting?

Zieba: So within the World Meat Congress, we were one part of the World Meat Congress and the U.S. pork delegation. We also were able to engage with meat producers from around the world. The Europeans hosted this one, but we also got a chance to talk to our counterparts in the U.K., and in Colombia, and Argentina, and from around the world, and also meet with not only pork producers and pork industry officials from around the world, but other livestock industries. And there was a bit of a that collaboration on discussing ideas and what we see coming up in regulations, but also the use of technologies, and really able to have some good conversations on the future of the livestock industries around the world.

Reus: What were some of the discussions around the new technologies that could be implemented in the industry?

Zieba: Yeah, so those were quite interesting conversations. A lot of it was focused on, for example, there was a discussion on artificial intelligence and the use of artificial intelligence within packing plants to really sort out those animals and make sure that there was consistency, and that AI technology could help do some of the sorting and identify animal diseases, should there be any. There was also some conversations on gene editing technology, and also cell-based proteins and cultured meat. It was very varied in the type of conversations that we were having, but also in our views and the different regulations that each country has and how different countries approach those.

Reus: You were chosen to serve on the board of directors for the International Meat Secretariat. What will that role entail?

Zieba: Well, I'm really excited about being able to join the board of IMS. IMS is a really important organization that has a foothold in many of these international organizations that NPPC strives to participate on behalf of our producers in. So those, for example, that could be Codex, which sets the international standards postharvest, or WOAH, the World Organization on Animal Health, which sets standards preharvest for our producers on an international level. So as part of the board, I look forward to representing our U.S. pork producers, but also having that dialogue in conversation with livestock producers from around the world, because the board does have those producers from all the different continents and being able to share some of those ideas. But beyond that, some of the things that are emerging as trends for us and for our consumers, that's going to be a really important part of my role within the board.

Reus: What were some of your key takeaways from both of these conferences?

Zieba: Well, I can't say it enough. One of the big takeaways for me was that the U.S. really needs to do an even better job of talking about our production practices, and how that has been a positive not only for producers, but the environment. I think that there's a lot of misinformation out there on how the industry works, and how we are stewards of the land. And that's part of the role that I hope to accomplish, and some of the things that I hope to accomplish as being part of IMS, and in those efforts through these international organizations. So, I think the big takeaway for me was making sure that the U.S. pork producer has a presence and that we don't get things dictated to us and that we have that ability to be part of the conversation, because if you're not part of the conversation, they're certainly going to be talking about you. And so, it's really important to be engaged and be able to shape some of the messaging that is already out there.

Reus: Well, thanks again, Maria, for joining me and sharing your thoughts.

Zieba: No problem. Thank you again for your time.

Reus: And thank you to the audience for listening. I'm Ann Reus for Feed Strategy.

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