News from the National Pork Board
Pork Checkoff LogoLatest Checkoff research

Pork safety: Incidence and severity of injection-site abscesses with needle or needle-free injection methods

The pork industry loses a substantial amount of money each year due to trimming of pork carcasses in processing plants. To help curb this problem, Pork Checkoff funded research led by Terry Houser at Kansas State University to determine if there was a difference in the rate of abscess formation when needle-free injection and conventional needle-and-syringe injection methods are compared. In all, 198 nursery-age pigs were used in the trial. They received injections on one side of the neck and ham using a needle-and-syringe system. On the opposite side, a needle-free jet injection system was used to administer one injection in the neck and another in the ham. Immediately prior to injection, the surface of the skin where the injections were given was contaminated with an inoculum of Arcanobacterium pyogenes, a bacterium that is commonly associated with abscesses found in livestock carcasses. The results of this study indicate that abscess formation due to injections is very hard to reproduce in a controlled experiment. Additionally, there does not seem to be a difference between the rates of abscess formation between the neck and ham regions. However, this experiment suggests that using needle-free systems has the potential to increase the occurrence of abscesses when A pyogenes is present.

For more information, go to or contact Lisa Becton at or 515-223-2791.

Public health: Quantitative risk assessment of human MRSA caused by antibiotic use in swine

A widely expressed fear is that antibiotics may create selection pressures that favor the spread of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs,” such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Conspicuously absent from any discussions on this topic is a quantitative discussion of how many excess deaths, treatment failures, or days of illness each year are caused in the United States by MRSA arising from use of antibiotics in pig production. To investigate this further, Tony Cox, Cox Associates, led a Checkoff-funded study to examine two major exposure pathways by which the specific type of MRSA that is associated with pigs (clonal complex 398; CC398 MRSA) might reach and infect humans: via the food chain and via direct contact on farms. A review of health statistics and scientific literature on CC398 MRSA in the United States, Canada. and Europe showed that pig-associated MRSA risks are minimal. In fact, no human deaths and no serious infections have been found to have been caused by pig-associated MRSA.

For more information, go to or contact Jennifer Koeman at or 515-223-2633.

Swine health: Testing a live Escherichia coli vaccine candidate for preventing collibacillosis in weaned pigs

Escherichia coli is a major cause of postweaning scours in weaned pigs, most frequently causing disease shortly after weaning. South Dakota State University researcher David Francis undertook this Checkoff-funded study to find an inexpensive and effective preventive measure that could be easily applied to prevent this postweaning disease in pigs. He fed an E coli vaccine in one of three forms to 5-day-old pigs, which should be even more susceptible to E coli than weaned pigs. Twenty-four hours after piglets were given the vaccine strains, they were challenge-inoculated with highly virulent enterotoxigenic E coli. The experiment was terminated 24 hours after the challenge and the condition of the pigs was assessed. He found that pigs receiving the complete vaccine were highly protected from disease. Such was not the case with pigs not given the complete vaccine strain, as they became very ill and their intestines were severely infected. In further studies, we found that, to be effective, the vaccine strain needed to possess the key traits that enabled it to colonize the intestine.

For more information, go to or contact Lisa Becton at or 515-223-2791.

To get more Checkoff research in your in-box…

Be sure to sign up for the Pork Checkoff Research REVIEW newsletter. This timely and Smartphone-friendly publication is published every 60 days and covers all areas of Pork Checkoff research from animal science to pork safety to the environment and more in short, easy-to-read paragraphs. If you want to get more on any research study, simply click on the link provided to access’s main research database where you can read the entire report.

To sign up for the newsletter, go to and click the “News” tab. For more information, contact Mike King at or 515-223-3532.

Carbon footprint calculator now available

Pork producers now have a new tool at their disposal since the Pork Checkoff unveiled the Live Swine Carbon Footprint Calculator at the World Pork Expo in June. Developed in collaboration with experts at the University of Arkansas, the software tool offers new insights into a farm’s carbon footprint in terms of greenhouse gases. More importantly, the output from the tool will show the percentage of carbon footprint by each key production area, which can then be addressed to improve efficiency, lower production costs, and help improve the environment.

For additional information about the Carbon Footprint Calculator, go to or contact Allan Stokes at or 515-223-3447.

PQA Plus Advisors required to register for new online certification site

With the new PQA Plus Online Certification Web site, all PQA Plus Advisors must register to access or input information into the site. All advisors received a certificate number included in the e-mail titled “Important Information Regarding PQA Plus Online” sent last spring, along with step-by-step instructions for accessing the new Web site. Also included in the e-mail and online is information on how to access the “User Instructions” section which includes PDFs outlining how to submit new certifications, recertify producers or youth, and use the “Favorites” feature.

If you need assistance re-enrolling in the certification Web site, please contact the Pork Checkoff Service Center at 800-456-7675 during business hours, Monday to Friday, 7 am to 5 pm Central time.

Food safety is also part of the PQA Plus Program

Through Pork Quality Assurance Plus, producers operate under best practices, including those related to food safety. Recently, the pork industry has been placed under more stringent regulations on maximum residue levels in its exports. According to Steve Larsen, Pork Checkoff Director of Pork Safety, “PQA Plus helps producers satisfy the needs of customers by providing a safe supply of pork. Packers don’t typically designate products to a specific market, so making sure their product meets all requirements is a great practice for producers to follow.”

During PQA Plus sessions, producers are provided specific methods for determining withdrawal and dosage information based on medication labels. However, some of the industry’s largest export markets require longer withdrawal times than those stated on medication labels. For the most accurate information on each withdrawal time and maximum residue level, producers and advisors should refer to the “Export Product Withdrawal” page under the “Resources” section of

For more information, go to or contact Steve Larsen at or 515-223-2754.

Swine ID critical to safeguard US herd

Nearly all (95%) of pork producers have registered their premises and obtained a nationally standardized farm identification number, typically referred to as a standard premises identification number. According to Patrick Webb, Pork Checkoff Director of Swine Health, this demonstrates the clear understanding by producers of the importance of implementing the Swine ID Plan, so the industry has a standardized animal identification and pre-harvest traceability system for animal health that is consistent across all states.

“Having the traceability infrastructure in place at the state and national level is crucial for maintaining and expanding export markets and offers us an invaluable tool to use in the event of a foreign animal disease,” says Webb. “It offers us a layer of protection that would not be possible without it.”

For additional information on the Swine ID Plan or the new “Think Pink” sow ID tags, go to or contact Patrick Webb at or 515-223-3441.