THE pork industry has taken a bold step where livestock industries in Australia have not yet ventured, and few globally have gone, by opening all its doors to wider society.
In a cutting-edge move, Australian Pork Limited has launched a virtual journey through the entire pork supply chain.
From footage on both free range and indoor farms to lairage and post stunning in plants through to small goods on retail shelves, the tour provides a 360-degree interactive view of all the facilities and processes involved in get pork to your fork.
It's candid work. There are offal cleaning shots, animals being bled and the opening of carcases. There is explanation of mating, how pigs on heat are detected and pregnancy ultrasounds. And the tour goes through to discussion of how pork appears in retail and its long list of nutritional benefits.
APL chief executive officer Margo Andrae said full transparency was a deliberate goal, regardless of how confronting or 'new' some of the information might be to some people.
"At the end of the day, if Australian agriculture wants consumers to be proud of it, it has to bring them along," she said.
At the bottom of attacks on livestock industries was often a lack of understanding of how things really happen, she said.
"Intensive livestock farming in Australia has the highest levels of animal welfare, biosecurity and very good sustainability credentials," she said.
"And our industry has some of the highest food safety standards in the world.
"In pork, the genetics we have mean pigs are sensitive to disease and roaming free is not a good thing for them so being indoors with the high level of care they receive is the ideal.
"We have an excellent story and as an industry we realised we needed to tell that story.
"We need to provide full visibility into what we do and why we do it."
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While some overseas intensive farms, and processing plants - in both pork and beef - have gone down a similar path, both virtually and in real life via viewing platforms and glass panels, it is a concept only spoken about in Australia and one many long timers say will require a big culture change within industry.
However, Ms Andrae says as consumers show increased interest in where their food comes from, opening the doors to show how high standards are maintained, and to dispel myths about livestock industries, is the only way forward.
The tour puts the consumer in the driver's seat, creating a rich user experience. Users can listen to narration, scan around facilities and click on specific areas of interest for more information.
It's a significant investment in supporting informed consumer choice, Ms Andrae said.
"Our producers are excited about this resource because it helps them connect with their consumers and show the work that goes into putting pork on their plates," she said.
The benefits of consumer education also flow to increased understanding of price fluctuations and why Australian product commands a premium, she said.
And the virtual tour will also serve the purpose of being an education tool.
It will complement a wide range of primary, secondary and university level curriculums, and get students 'on farm' without the challenges of biosecurity or travel.
APL has been working closely with Primary Industries Education Foundation Australia (PIEFA) to develop educational resources to accompany the tour.
These will provide information to help teaching staff manage conversations that may arise with their students and provide curriculum-aligned classroom activities to help get the most out of the tour.
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The story Pork opens all its doors, from piggery to plant to plate first appeared on Farm Online.