Pearls and Pork, By Angie Krieger

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This past month brought a lot of “firsts.” My first all staff meeting with a new team, my first speaking opportunity in my new role, and my first poultry and egg meeting. That’s right; after a couple of decades in the pork industry, I made it to my first meeting with our feathered friends.

My youngest daughter was a little confused when I told her I would be attending the U.S Roundtable for Sustainable Poultry and Eggs and International Poultry Welfare Alliance meetings in Atlanta, Georgia last week. “Wait,” she said, “You’re going to a CHICKEN meeting?” (She is still adjusting to the fact that I don’t work at the Pork Checkoff anymore, where she was known to roam the halls on occasion and raid the snack closet like she owned the place.)

I explained to her that my new role works across many crop and livestock species and that I would, in fact, be going to a chicken meeting (and turkey and eggs). And then, when I started to think about the fact I was going to a meeting in an industry I knew little about and probably knew even fewer people, I started to panic a little. Because, who was I going to talk to? And, what was I going to talk about?

But once I walked into the opening reception, I realized all my anxiety was pointless. POULTRY PEOPLE ARE AWESOME!

I wasn’t standing by myself for even two minutes when someone walked up and introduced themself. And, then another. Then, I got bold and introduced myself to someone new. Before I knew it, I had a whole group of new friends and dinner plans for the evening.

The next morning brought familiar faces, more new friends, and great presentations on issues that sounded a lot like the ones I was used to hearing about in the pork industry. Don’t get me wrong, I learned a lot about poultry and eggs that was new because, well, they are birds and not monogastric mammals. They have beaks and paws, and their housing is different; their lifecycle is a lot shorter. But all in all, many of the overarching challenges are the same. Discerning consumers, demanding customers, investors, special interest groups…starting to sound familiar?

This is certainly not the first time I’ve been to this type of meeting. The pork industry has done its share of bringing multi-stakeholder groups together before, and I’ve had the pleasure of being a part of several of them. The Common Swine Industry Audit began with a group of stakeholders from pig farmers to C-suite retail executives. Sow Housing and sustainability have been discussed in such groups as well. In fact, as an industry, I think pork has done just as good a job as any other at convening diverse groups to talk about important issues.

If that’s the case, why on earth was I so nervous? The answer is simple. Because, if, like me, you have a little bit of anxiety mixed in with a dose of imposter syndrome, a first like this is really daunting.

But what I learned in Atlanta is that instead of feeling out of place and unsure of the value you add in a new situation, you can lean in and see it for the opportunity it presents. The opportunity to look at challenges with a new perspective. To approach potential solutions to a longstanding problem differently.

Looking back at my experience, I realize I did have value to add to conversations. And I asked questions I hope challenged other, more veteran attendees of this meeting to think about things in a new way. Those are the products of a “first” we can all benefit from.

What “first” have you had recently? Did you have a similar experience? What can you share to help others who might be starting a new adventure or finding themselves in unfamiliar territory?