It has been announced that swine exhibited at the 2020 Ohio State Fair — and a growing number of county fairs — are required to be ractopamine-free.
Recently, ractopamine-free swine production became a market specification through much of the U.S. pork packing industry. Although ractopamine (sold under the trade names Paylean or Engain for swine) is an approved product used to increase lean growth rate, it has been banned in many international pork markets. In short, ractopamine-free means that a pig has never been fed or exposed to ractopamine from the time of birth to the time of market.
In response, the Ohio Pork Council, Ohio State University Extension, Ohio Department of Agriculture, and Ohio State Fair have collaborated to put a comprehensive plan in place for a ractopamine-free swine project.
- Understand the ractopamine-free status of any pigs purchased or raised and comply by not feeding or exposing the pigs to ractopamine.
- Work directly with feed suppliers to make sure feed is ractopamine-free.
- Feeders and feed containers should be thoroughly disinfected and dried prior to adding new feed to prevent cross-contamination.
- Pens, bedding, fans, etc. should be thoroughly disinfected as they have a risk of containing ractopamine if it has been fed in the past.
- Do a complete disinfection and drying of trailers and vehicles between loads of pigs.
- Do not offer ractopamine at the exhibition if the rules indicate it is not acceptable.
“We are offering guidelines, the packer is ultimately the one who controls the testing processes for the pigs they choose to purchase. If the packer comes back with a test that is ractopamine positive, then how they handle it is also their choice,” said Steve Moeller, Ohio State University Extension swine specialist. “The reality of it is, if exhibitors want to continue to show pigs and have a true value for the commercial industry, this is a real concern. We can’t lose 25% of our market that goes to exports because of less than 1% of the pig population. We are just trying to provide guidance and information and represent what our industry is being asked to do. In order for the State Fair to have access to a packing plant that would buy the pigs, the only way they can get there is if those pigs are deemed to be ractopamine-free.”
To ensure that exhibitors follow this protocol, the Ohio State Fair will secure a signed affidavit from a parent or legal guardian at the time of entry stating that the pigs being exhibited have never been offered ractopamine. A sample affidavit developed by The Ohio State University can be found here: https://ohiopork.org/ractopamine-free/.
“The affidavit process is one of individuals deciding to follow the rules that the pig should be free of ractopamine from the date of birth to the date it is harvested,” Moeller said. “That responsibility extends all the way back to the breeder.”
County fair managers should work with their local packer to enact their plan for 2020. At any exhibition level, youth swine projects reflect the entire swine industry’s commitment to the WeCare principles that provide the basis for consumer trust in the way pigs are raised and the safety and wholesomeness of the pork they purchase.
“We know ractopamine has been used in the past so we need to really clean up our facilities so we start with a base that is clean. Then come in and use ractopamine-free feed. If they do that, the risk of cross-contamination is very, very low,” Moeller said. “Be very careful if there is a situation where you expose your animals to other animals that have been fed ractopamine. You have to be very cautious about how you manage your feed resources if you have multiple diets with one containing ractopamine. The playing field will be even if everyone is not using it. That is what the market has dictated.”
All of these informational resources can be accessed online at https://ohiopork.org/ractopamine-free/. A Fact Sheet is available at https://ohiopork.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Ractopamine-Free-Swine-Project-1.pdf.