Site assessment is an integral part of swine production auditing, By Casey Zangaro Michigan State University

Updates to PQA Site Assessment Version 5 add the trademark Pork Quality Assurance® Plus.

Feeders pigs pictured during a site assessment.
Feeders pigs pictured during a site assessment. Photo by Casey Zangaro, MSU Extension.

Swine producers continuously look for improvements for their swine herd, especially in the areas of animal health, food safety and biosecurity. Through the National Pork Board, the Pork Quality Assurance Plus (PQA) program was created in 2007 to assist producers in their continuous education in the areas of food safety and animal welfare, reflecting the increasing consumer interest in the way food animals are raised. The National Pork Board has revised the program every 3 years with updates in training materials for both certification of employees and for the Site Assessment. These updates reflect the values of swine producers and consumer reflections on the swine industry. The PQA Site Assessment is an educational tool within PQA Plus for producers to objectively assess the well-being of their pigs along with pre-harvest food safety. The Site Assessment was developed as a method of on-farm assessment and awareness so producers could be prepared for the Common Swine Industry Audit.  

A PQA site assessment is required every 3 years for producers whose animals enter the major commercial food chains. It provides producers with a standardized system for tracking and evaluating their operation’s performance. This evaluation can be a useful tool to identify weaknesses in the areas of management, nutrition, or health problems before they become serious production issues. The PQA site assessment covers 27 key aspects of swine care and pre-harvest safety including 4 main areas that are reviewed during evaluation of each site: animals, facilities, caretakers, and records for all phases of production.  

In August 2022, PQA Plus rolled out Version 5 programs for both individual certification and site assessment. While PQA certification can be completed remotely, the PQA Plus Site Assessment reflects the evaluation of an audit and completed in person to obtain the most thorough and comprehensive review of the barn, the animals, and the employees.  

One update in Version 5 (2022) is the assessment of scratches on a pig. In version 4, a scratch was determined by its length (minimum 12 inches). but in Version 5 defines animal-based behavior of scratches based on the percentage of surface area of new scratches. Other major changes from the last version include proper use of euthanasia equipment, posting of emergency contact and site address numbers, and instead of the question regarding the presence of “deep” wounds observed on pigs, it is now asking about “open” wounds.  

To find a local PQA Plus Advisor to schedule your certification or a Site Assessment, the Pork Checkoff website can direct you to an advisor or answer other questions. Within Michigan, we have several PQA Plus advisors that can assist with site assessments. You can also contact State trainers Madonna Benjamin, and Casey Zangaro.