Every person on earth who eats is involved in agriculture. Despite our relationship with food, we don’t usually equate innovation with food production. However, advances are ensuring that the food we eat is safe and meets consumers’ demands.

Food safety

The food industry is continuing to investigate antimicrobial interventions that reduce food-borne illnesses, such as meat irradiation. The American Meat Institute recently requested that the USDA consider approving electron-beam irradiation for whole carcasses. No determination has been made, but it’s quite likely we will be hearing much more about irradiation intervention.

High Hydrostatic Pressure Processing is another possible intervention. This non-thermal process uses ultra-high pressure (87,000 psi), which has proven effective in reducing food-borne pathogens. I expect we will see more large processors using HHPP.

Ethnic processing

As ethnic populations rapidly increase, processors will use cutting and processing techniques that better serve these groups and offer new market opportunities.

Many ethnic populations are accustomed to meat cut differently than what we currently offer. New cuts as well as marinades and spice blends for ethnic foods could open the door to new markets. It’s a matter of listening to consumers.

Sustainability

The American Meat Institute recently launched a website, www.sustainablemeatindustry.org, to help meat companies implement sustainable practices. Topics include water reuse, environmentally-friendly packaging, energy-efficient lighting, employee care, animal handling, ensuring a safe and wholesome product and community care.

Pork industry recovery

The global economic recession, overproduction and H1N1 have all hit the pork industry hard this year and many people are closely watching to see when and how the industry will bounce back. Opening and enhancing export markets and educating consumers worldwide on pork’s safety will certainly help. Also, many industry analysts say the U.S. hog herd needs to decrease by about 10 percent to bring supply and demand in check. Given the importance of the pork industry, whatever happens will have a profound effect on the rest of agriculture.