August 2002 // Volume 40 // Number 4 // Ideas at Work // 4IAW3

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Junior Pork Day--A Family Experience

Junior Pork Day is a special 1-day workshop held annually at Purdue University to provide new 4-H swine members and their parents with current information and hands-on learning to spark their interest in the swine industry. During this educational workshop, participants rotate individually through a series of stations that test their skills in the areas of swine evaluation, parts identification, and other areas of the swine industry. One hundred percent of the parents responding to an evaluation survey indicated that Junior Pork Day had been helpful to their youth and that they personally benefited from attending the program, as well.

Clinton P. Rusk
Assistant Professor
4-H Youth Department
Internet Address:

Tracie Egger
Assistant to the Director of Academic Programs
Office of Academic Programs
Internet Address:

Krisanna Machtmes
Program Evaluator
4-H Youth Department
Internet Address:

Brian T. Richert
Associate Professor
Animal Sciences Department
Internet Address:

Purdue University
West Lafayette, Indiana


Junior Pork Day is a special 1-day workshop held annually at Purdue University to provide youth and their parents with current information and hands-on learning to spark their interest in the swine industry. This fun-filled educational event encourages youth to further their education and helps them apply the information they learn to their individual swine projects. Junior Pork Day is targeted toward a joint learning experience between new 4-H swine members and their parents.

However, in addition, this event provides a significant recruiting opportunity for the Department of Animal Sciences by giving participants exposure to the Purdue campus and its faculty and staff. Because of the continued success of the program, the industry (e.g., Armour Swift-Eckrich, Inc. and several of Indiana's purebred swine associations) has enthusiastically sponsored the event to help defray the costs and allow more youth an opportunity to participate.

Program Description

During this educational workshop, youth are divided into three age groups (novice 1st year swine members, juniors in 3rd through 8th grade, and seniors in the 9th grade and above), which allows them to learn at different levels. Adults are grouped together with first-year 4-H members to create a family learning environment.

In the afternoon, senior members participate in learning opportunities planned specifically for them. In 2001, the seniors competed in a swine skill-a-thon that rotated them individually through a series of stations that tested their skills in the areas of genetic evaluation, parts identification, and general knowledge of the swine industry.

Each age group is given an opportunity to sharpen their swine selection and evaluation skills during the swine judging contest. Experts help participants learn to evaluate differences in the amount of muscle and fat, and structural correctness of pigs at various stages of development. Participants evaluate a variety of pigs and are encouraged to select those animals that will be the most profitable for their 4-H swine projects.

The second half of the evaluation training focuses on pork quality. Extension meat specialists help participants differentiate the components of pork quality in three main pork cuts and learn about consumer preferences. This continuum from the live animal to the retail case reinforces the concept that 4-H market hogs eventually become part of the food chain, so it's imperative for 4-H members to understand their role in raising a healthy and nutritious product.

2001 Workshop

The goals for the 2001 Junior Pork Day included:

  • Providing an opportunity for beginning swine project members to gain needed assistance in selecting a project pig,
  • Teaching participants how to compete in swine showmanship,
  • Instructing attendees on the selection of high-quality cuts of pork, and
  • Teaching first-year swine members what it takes to properly care for and feed a 4-H pig.

In 2001, Junior Pork Day focused on the breeding aspect of the swine industry. Special emphasis was placed on teaching the latest techniques of semen collection, artificial insemination, and embryology. Youth and adults also learned about the product side of the swine industry, as instructors taught them how to select high quality bacon, pork chops and hams. Knowing how to properly identify and select quality pork cuts will help all of the participants become more informed consumers.

After lunch, participants received hands-on training in swine showmanship, pork quality assurance, and swine-related health issues. Being good showmen not only enables 4-H members to compete with a sense of mastery, but it also makes exhibiting hogs more fun. Learning about health issues includes helping young producers understand what is meant by biosecurity and disease prevention. It is critical that 4-H members know how to recognize illnesses in their pigs and what to do and/or whom to call if their animals get sick.

Each year, the organizers of Junior Pork Day strive to cover current issues that may affect swine project members and their parents. In 2001, researchers presented the pros and cons of including the feed additive Paylean' in swine diets. Paylean' is a beta agonist approved in July 2000 for use in the finishing rations of market hogs. Junior Pork Day participants were given updates on the latest research findings and advised on the proper usage for optimum results.


At the conclusion of the program, attendees were surveyed to see if program planners had been successful in meeting their goals and so feedback could be collected and analyzed in order to make changes or improvements for future programs. Survey instruments, developed for juniors, seniors, and adults, revealed the following results:

  • 128 youth participated in the 2001 Junior Pork Day.
  • 96% of these youth were 4-H members.
  • 61% of the youth were males and 39% were females.

A cross-tabulation analysis demonstrated that youth attending Junior Pork Day for the first time benefited the most from the program. The following results indicate the responses from these first time attendees:

  • 77.3% indicated the showmanship session helped them learn how to show swine.
  • 66.7% indicated Junior Pork Day helped them realize that proper care and feeding would help them raise a champion pig.
  • 64.3% were now confident to select their own pig for a 4-H project.
  • 63.2% learned how to select good cuts of pork during the carcass session.

The 70 adults attending the 2001 Junior Pork Day were pleased with the quality of the sessions and the amount of information their children had an opportunity to learn during the program. One hundred percent of the adults that responded indicated that Junior Pork Day had been helpful to their youth and that they personally benefited from attending the program, as well. Following are some of their anecdotal responses.

  • "My kids loved it. The showmanship and nutrition classes were very helpful, and the kids were very interested in the embryo development class because it was a hands-on experience."
  • "They learned a lot about everything, especially about picking out their own pigs."
  • "Our students learned that there is a lot more to raising hogs than cleaning pens and washing animals."