DES MOINES, Iowa — Pork producers’ desire for continuous improvement in production practices and exceeding customers’ demands for quality assurance measures spurred changes to the voluntary Pork Quality Assurance Plus program.

Revisions to PQA Plus were announced during World Pork Expo 2013. A part of the pork industry’s We Care initiative, PQA Plus provides a framework for significant, relevant food safety standards and improved animal well-being.

PQA Plus has evolved since its introduction in 1989 with regular revisions and updates to increase its effectiveness, incorporate new research information, and ensure the program’s validity with customers.

PQA Plus incorporates 10 Good Production Practices to align more closely with the We Care initiative principles. Revisions to PQA Plus were effective June 7.

Farmers and other industry experts who have seen the revised program embrace the changes.

“There are so many outside influences affecting how we do business, I think for any industry to come together and realize there needs to be a training tool to say, ‘These are our set industry practices and standards,’ and self-regulate is very positive,” said Emily Erickson, animal well-being and quality assurance manager at New Fashion Pork in Minnesota.

“PQA Plus represents a group coming together and determining what’s best for their industry. It’s hard to go wrong when a set of individuals are proactive and forward thinking in this way.”

Jan Archer, a farmer from North Carolina, sees additional benefits to PQA Plus.

“All of our employees are on same page, use the same vocabulary and understand our common issues,” she said. “It’s a way for us to impress on our employees how important what they do every day is. We are all focused, pulling in the same direction.”

The end result is added credibility, according to Archer.

“We are a contract farm. It’s important our integrator knows how hard we’re working,” she said. “Participating in PQA Plus is demonstrating credibility.”

The program also serves as a baseline for standard operating procedures in some instances.

“We feel it’s an important program to help us ensure we’re doing the right thing and that we’re meeting our quality standards,” said Mike Faga, director of animal well-being at Iowa Select Farms. “It’s widely accepted by the packing community and the customers as well who buy our product.”

Participants now must pass a test on questions related to 10 Good Production Practices with a minimum score. Recertification will be available via an online process after initial certification.

Participating farms must submit a corrective action plan for all non-compliant findings following site assessments. And trainers and advisers for the program will receive more extensive instructions and information.

More information on the revised PQA Plus program is available at www.pork.org/certification.