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Introducing PQA Plus Version 4

The Pork Quality Assurance Plus (PQA Plus®) program is about education. The original, voluntary PQA educational program was launched in 1989. Demonstrating the commitment of the pork industry to incorporate the latest scientific knowledge and production methods, the program has been updated over the years and has undergone revision and improvement every three years. The most-recent version of the program, PQA Plus Version 4, became effective June 3, 2019.

There are two components of today’s PQA Plus program: certification and site status. According to the National Pork Board “more than 71,000 farmers and farm personnel have voluntarily embraced the program by earning PQA Plus certification” and “more than 19,000 sites,” representing 85% of the US pig population, have been assessed under the program at the time of writing.


Cover of the PQA Plus Education Handbook, Version 4.0. Courtesy: National Pork Board
Courtesy: National Pork Board

Individual certification is achieved through completion of either a face-to-face PQA Plus training session or online training. In-person sessions are directed by a certified Advisor moving through a 90-minute discussion addressing food safety, animal well-being, environmental stewardship, worker safety, public health, and community. Alternatively, online training is also available by requesting access via an Advisor. The first time online and face-to-face training take approximately 75 of the 90 minutes to complete the core material. Regardless of the training situation, completion of the certification requires a passing grade – no more than three missed answers out of 25 questions – on the associated test which can be completed using the PQA V4 Handbook. Certification is valid for three years.

PQA Plus Version 4 has added flexibility into the certification content. For example, the first-time certification is designed to introduce new caretakers to the basic knowledge needed to be successful in the swine industry. Alternatively, the recertification option provides experienced caretakers a scenario-based setting to renew their certification. Additionally, there are options to customize the learning path for those producers or caretakers that primarily work in a breeding environment, for someone who primarily works with market pigs, or for those producers that serve a specialty position like wash out or vaccination crew.

More information, including a list of certification training dates and locations and qualified PQA Plus Advisors can be found on the National Pork Board webpage. Face-to-face certification training is presented annually at the South Dakota Pork Congress. To request access to online PQA Plus certification training at any time, contact Ryan Samuel.

Site Status

The second component of the PQA Plus program is the Site Status. Aligned with the Common Swine Industry Audit, the process is facilitated by a qualified PQA Plus Advisor who will conduct an on-farm Site Assessment. After a review of the standard operating procedures and office records, the assessment continues by covering caretaker training, animal observations, and the facilities. Visit the Program Materials page to download the most recent Site Assessment Checklist which can help in preparing for a Site Assessment. Furthermore, the Site Assessment Guide provides more details about the Site Assessment process, including the Site Assessment Form that will be completed.

The Site Assessment is an educational opportunity to ensure that the key components of the PQA Plus program are being utilized on the farm. The Site Status must be renewed every three years.

The PQA Plus program provides the educational training for the individual certification of caretakers and for the granting of site status through the Site Assessment to ensure the continued and long-term success of the US swine industry. Furthermore, anyone who would like to learn more about modern pork production could participate in a PQA Plus certification training to learn about the food safety, animal well-being, environmental stewardship, worker safety, public health, and community involvement programs that pork producers do on a daily basis to ensure animal welfare and environmental sustainability.

For questions or to schedule a PQA Plus Site Assessment, contact Ryan Samuel.