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Home Swine News Remembering Kara — The Visionary Who Revolutionized Pork’s Approach to Health and...

Remembering Kara — The Visionary Who Revolutionized Pork’s Approach to Health and Wellness

In loving memory of Kara Behlke Ungerman, NPB’s Vice President of Nutrition, Health and Wellness Transformation. January 18, 1983 – August 4, 2023.

The National Pork Board halls are somber this week, mourning the sudden loss of our cherished colleague Kara Behlke Ungerman.

Kara’s absence is deeply felt by all of us who had the privilege to work alongside her. She passed unexpectedly on August 4, just after bringing a beautiful baby boy into this world. Our heartfelt condolences go out to her family, especially her husband and newborn son.

A Beacon in Nutrition and Wellness

Kara’s professional journey is one that has inspired and touched many. Serving as the vice president of nutrition, health and wellness transformation at NPB, Kara’s visionary leadership was pivotal and uniquely combined agriculture, food, health and nutrition.

As a registered dietitian nutritionist, she developed a health and wellness platform to build trust in and add value to the pork industry. She was the force behind many successful initiatives, always driving innovative progress in research and behavior change.

Pictured left to right: Bill Even, Kara Behlke Ungerman, & Kevin Gillespie in the NPB Innovation Kitchen.

“Let’s put health at the heart of what we do to help create a sustainable industry for producers and partners to thrive — a pork industry that can withstand the test of time and strengthen industry collaboration on a valence issue.”

– Kara Behlke Ungerman 

Building a Health and Wellness Competency for Pork

Kara spent three years developing a long-term health and wellness strategy for the pork industry. Knowing that people’s eating habits and attitudes are changing, Kara’s approach was designed to ensure pork plays a role in a healthy diet and lifestyle choices.

Calling: To help the pork industry be part of the solution to feed and nourish the world for healthier people and a happier planet.

Mission: To support research and education on the important role of eating fresh pork in happier, healthier lives. She encouraged industry and partner collaboration to compound efforts for a greater good and a bigger impact.

Goal: Be proactive and positive; to generate evidence with rigor that advances science and transforms people’s perceptions about pork.

Using Pork Checkoff funds, she invested in three core pillars to create a bedrock for the health and wellness competency at NPB that also serves as a springboard for industry collaboration.

Human Nutrition Research

Guided by a producer task force and experts, Kara crafted a research roadmap to champion nutritious eating worldwide. This guide helps NPB allocate resources efficiently and collaborate effectively. The focus is highlighting pork as a versatile and sustainable protein choice for all. Among the projects, Kara was exploring pork’s cognitive benefits and its role in the USDA Thrifty Food Plan [▶️watch the webinar]. She was making strides in positioning pork prominently on the global nutrition map.

Consumer Outreach

Kara worked to establish a strong health and wellness identity and help pork take control of our own story. Instead of constantly defending our stance, her guidance was to forge ahead proactively, connecting research to relevant topics for consumers. The Surprisingly Pork initiative, guided by an NPB board working group, translates health and wellness research into engaging content that challenges existing beliefs about pork. The final strategy blueprint is currently rolling out initial projects. Through consistent efforts, the goal is to shift perceptions, reach wider audiences and position pork as a top protein choice.

Kara makes pancakes to serve to producers at World Pork Expo 2023.

Health Professional Engagement

To ignite meaningful change, Kara envisioned amplifying pork’s mission through targeted advocacy. Her plan was to pinpoint common interests and values across individuals, businesses and sectors. Using Pork & Partners as a catalyst, she was encouraging health professionals to see pork’s wellness potential in a new way. Through ongoing dialogues on current topics, she was fostering community and advocacy. This unified approach streamlines efforts and paves the way for impactful, proactive changes.

Memories from Pork Producers

While her professional accolades are many, to those of us at NPB, she was more than just a colleague. In these tough times, pork producers reflect on their time with her and the lasting legacy she leaves behind.

“When I first met Kara, I was struck by how open, inviting and genuine she was. It was impossible not to like her. Then, I saw her take the stage. Watching her command a room with her wit, intelligence and vivacity made me so proud to have her on my team. Her knowledge and passion drew people in, and her enthusiasm and obvious love for people kept their attention. Words are inadequate to describe the loss felt by so many who knew Kara. She has left an amazing legacy.”

Jan Archer, pork producer from North Carolina and NPB past president 

Pictured left to right: Kara, Amy Busch, & Trisha Brooks at World Pork Expo 2022.

Images of Kara

As we mourn, let us also remember the vibrant spirit of Kara Behlke Ungerman, cherishing her memories and celebrating the immense impact she had on the intersection where pork meets nutrition and wellness, and more importantly, on each of our lives.

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