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Pork production big business in Iowa

By Staff | Jul 30, 2010

Estherville Rotarians Thursday had the straight scoop on Iowa pork production from a certified veterinarian and partner in a pork production partnership.

Craig Rowles, partner and general manager of Elite Pork Partnership, LLP, an 8,000-unit farrow-to-finish operation near Carroll, said he started in the pork business at the tender age of 14 when he borrowed $10,000 from his local banker to start his own operation. Rowles sold market hogs to pay his tuition at Iowa State University where he eventually graduated from veterinary school.

Rowles practiced large animal veterinary medicine for 14 years at Carroll Veterinary Clinic. In 1994, he took his knowledge of the pork industry to the public arena when he became a member of the national Pork Producers Council, a group that focuses on the legislative and public policy issues for the pork industry. Rowles now serves on the National Pork Producers Council’s Swine Research Committee.

Since 1996 Rowles has been associated with Elite Pork Partnership.

Rowles noted how pork as a product has evolved dramatically since the 1940s and 1950s. A lot of that was due to more health-conscious consumers in the 1970s who demanded a leaner product.

Pork producers responded, and with improvements in genetics, environment and diet, they have now created a pork tenderloin that is actually leaner than a skinless chicken breast.

Rowles said improved pork products have also changed cooking methods.

“Trichinosis in pork is essentially gone,” said Rowles, the reason being that hogs are now fed more exacting diets.

Pork now leads all meats in worldwide consumption at 38 percent with poultry second at 32 percent. Pork exports in fact help balance the trade deficit and boost the national economy. Pork industry workers also earn on a par of other Iowa workers, with the average wage of his employees at $35,000 a year.

Rowles said the tremendous improvement in pork products began with an analysis of genetic traits and scientifically formulated diets. As an example, he said his company has 11 different diets for hogs at various stages. One key strategy is to not waste money on extra protein which incidentally can also cause odor problems. Computer technology is also used for climate control. “Every day we are working hard to make that better,” Rowles said.