We Care Principles

We Care is our promise that North Carolina’s hog farmers are committed to responsible and ethical animal agriculture. There are six principles:

• Produce safe food
• Protect and promote animal well-being
• Ensure practices to protect public health
• Provide a work environment that is safe
• Safeguard natural resources
• Contribute to a better quality of life in our communities



Produce safe food

Providing safe, wholesome food is our most important responsibility. Our farmers recognize that many factors can affect the safety of pork and employ a wide variety of technology and techniques to minimize food safety threats. Modern practices such as raising pigs indoors and closely monitoring all aspects of biosecurity have vastly improved today’s pork in terms of safety and quality.

Our farmers actively engage with the scientific community, governmental agencies and food chain partners to create credible programs and stringent policies that advance pork food safety. This collaboration has led to the development of forward-thinking programs that advance good farming practices to minimize food safety threats.

Pork: A healthy alternative

There are many beneficial qualities to pork that make it easy to incorporate into a healthy and balanced diet. Pork is a good source of protein and provides several important vitamins and minerals. Seven different cuts of pork meet the USDA guidelines for “lean” by containing less than 10 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat and 95 milligrams of cholesterol per 100 grams of meat.

“North Carolina pork is as special as the families that grow it. It’s a quality, safe, nutritious, great-tasting product that a lot of work and a lot of love has gone into producing.”

Justin Edwards
Duplin County Hog Farmer


Protect and promote animal well-being

Producing safe, healthy food begins with excellent animal care. The business of raising hogs begins with this fundamental understanding: Healthy animals are the key to producing quality pork. Today’s pigs are raised on farms that are dedicated to the health, well-being and safety of the animals – right from the moment they are born.

The pork industry works closely with veterinarians and other agriculture experts to consistently look for ways to better care for animals. This knowledge and expertise has led to the development of standard practices that guide farmers on everything from the nutritious feeding to safe transportation of pigs.

Keeping pigs healthy. Pigs, like people, can become ill from a variety of diseases. To protect our animals against disease, most pigs are now raised indoors with limited access to people and other animals. This enables farm workers to effectively manage barn biosecurity and keep out disease-causing pathogens.

“We take a lot of time making sure that we look after our animals in a warm, caring environment. When that animal leaves your farm, it is a reflection on you and the job that you do.”

Lorenda Overman
Wayne County Hog Farmer


Ensure practices to protect public health

Today, we’re raising pigs in the best environment possible. We’re using new technologies to improve the health of our pigs and reduce the environmental impact of our farms. And our farms use the most comprehensive quality assurance programs for animal agriculture in the world.

We do this because we care – about our animals, our farms and the food we provide.

Farmers are using practices that have been developed over decades to continuously improve the way we care for our animals and manage our farms. As a result, today’s pork is safer, more sustainable and more popular than ever.

Committed to renewable energy. North Carolina has established itself as the nation’s leading producer of renewable energy generated from swine waste. Following the North Carolina General Assembly’s passage of a landmark bill that included renewable energy mandates, there has been an increased focus on converting swine waste into clean energy.

One new partnership, called Optima KV, involving Duke Energy and Smithfield Foods is capturing methane gas from covered anaerobic digesters at five Duplin County farms. The gas is refined at a central facility and injected it into the natural gas pipeline to be converted into electricity.

“By keeping the farm healthy and clean, taking proper care of our animals, and doing what is right, we can keep the public safe from harmful water or air emissions and provide a nourishing food source.”


Provide a work environment that is safe

Education and training ensure employee safety. The pork industry offers national training and certification programs to share best practices with employees who work on hog farms. The most notable example: Pork Quality Assurance (PQA) Plus, a comprehensive food safety and animal well-being program that provides farmers and farm employees with the right resources and proper knowledge to improve farm operations. It is widely considered the most complete education program in animal agriculture today.

NC hog farmers demonstrate their commitment to the We Care principles through PQA Plus certification.

The program documents compliance with the We Care principles through training, testing, and an on-site assessment that includes a thorough review of the farm’s facilities, equipment, animal care and well-being practices.

Since the program was launched, North Carolina hog farmers and employees have received 5,145 PQA Plus certifications.


“PQA Plus is how we prove that we are doing what we say we are doing. The classes, tests, certifications and reams and reams of paperwork are what farmers are willing to do to demonstrate their commitment to their animals, their customers, and their communities.”

Jan Archer
Goldsboro Hog Farmer



Safeguard natural resources

Sustainable farming is successful farming. North Carolina farmers have long understood the vital importance of sustainable agriculture and we remain committed to protecting our natural resources for future generations.

One clear example of sustainable animal agriculture is the cycle of using animal manure as a natural fertilizer for crops (which, in turn, become feed for the animals). North Carolina hog farmers must develop comprehensive nutrient management plans for their property and follow a stringent set of regulations that dictate precisely how much manure can be applied to the land, when it can be applied, and how often it can be applied. These rules are designed to ensure manure is used in an agronomically sound and safe way to improve soil quality, improve crop production and protect natural resources.

The use of protective buffers provides further protection for nearby rivers and streams.

Doing more with less. As responsible stewards of our natural resources, farmers must continue to find innovative ways to operate their farms. Studies show that compared to 50 years ago, today’s hog farmers are using less land and less water to produce pork – and they are doing it with a smaller carbon footprint.

Read more in our Truth of the Matter series

Respect for the Earth and its natural resources is part of our nation’s agricultural heritage — and we are dedicated to preserving that legacy.


Contribute to a better quality of life in our communities


Family farmers play an integral role in our communities. Agriculture represents a significant piece of North Carolina’s history – and its future. Drive through rural communities and you’ll find thousands of farms growing crops and raising livestock.

These traditional agricultural communities are where many hog farms operate.

Our farmers take pride in supporting their communities. They make significant contributions to the local economy, volunteer their time and energy to support community organizations, and strive to be good neighbors to those who live nearby.

Many of our farm families have been part of these rural communities for generations. They live on the farm and raise their families there, many hoping to one day pass the farm down to their children. These farmers care deeply about protecting the air, water and soil and carefully follow all rules and regulations. If concerns are raised, they listen closely and work hard to find a solution.

Growth around hog farms. A misperception exists among some that people hog farms deter growth. But drive through eastern North Carolina and you will see just the opposite. There are countless examples of new neighborhoods sprouting up in close proximity to hog farms. Developers are moving toward these farms and homebuyers are enjoying a host of outdoor amenities – swimming pools, fire pits, trampolines, etc.