Written with contributions by Heidi Carroll, former SDSU Extension Livestock Stewardship Field Specialist & Beef Quality Assurance Coordinator.
The original voluntary Pork Quality Assurance® Plus (PQA Plus) educational program was launched in 1989. Continuing the commitment of the pork industry to incorporate the latest scientific knowledge and production methods, the program has been updated and the most-recent version of the program, PQA Plus Version 5.0, which became effective June 1, 2022.
There are two components of the PQA Plus program: 1) Certification and 2) Site Assessment. According to the National Pork Board, more than 66,000 producers are currently PQA Plus certified, and nearly 19,000 sites, representing 85% of the U.S. pig population, have been assessed under the program at the time of writing.
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 programs 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 V5 Handbook. Certification is valid for three years.
PQA Plus Version 5.0 has maintained the flexibility introduced with Version 4 with regards to the recertification content. Experienced caretakers can go through a general path of scenario-based modules to renew their certification. Alternatively, there are options for the Advisor to customize the learning path or to assign a specific learning path to those producers or caretakers that primarily work in a breeding environment, or for someone who primarily works with market pigs.
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, Assistant Professor & SDSU Extension Swine Specialist.
The second component of the PQA Plus program is the site assessment. Aligned with the Common Swine Industry Audit, the process is facilitated by a qualified PQA Plus Advisor, who will conduct an on-farm 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 assessment 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 U.S. 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, Assistant Professor & SDSU Extension Swine Specialist.