This article was originally published in the May issue of Soy Perspectives magazine.

Meet Brock Willard.

He’s a soybean, corn and hog farmer that operates with his grandfather and uncle outside of Griggsville, Ill. He’s also one of the Illinois Soybean Association’s (ISA) Soy Ambassadors, a leadership program sponsored by ISA checkoff and membership programs.

During the two-year Soy Ambassador experience, participants gain leadership expertise, industry exposure and global perspective. Willard and his classmates traveled to Mexico in January 2020 to follow a unique journey for Illinois soybeans – the path from Illinois soybean fields and Illinois fed hogs to the meat markets of Mexico.

From Illinois Fields & Barns…

from IL fields and barnsWillard and his family contract finish more than 10,000 pigs annually in Pike and Adams counties. They have a 5,200-head capacity they turn over twice a year. They are a wean-to-finish operation, meaning pigs come in at around 13 pounds and are finished to 280-290 pounds. From there, the majority of their hogs are delivered to the Farmland Foods facility in Monmouth, Ill.

For Willard, the hog industry is in his blood.

“My grandpa started raising pigs in a farrow-to-finish operation. We moved over to contract finishing in the mid-to-late 1990s during a tougher economic time for hogs,” says Willard. “We’ve kept with it because we like the economics and it’s a good equity builder. It’s allowed my uncle and me to come back to the farm. We expanded the hog operation again in 2015.”

As a soybean farmer, Willard understands that it takes good protein to grow good protein.

“On average, soybean meal makes up 200 pounds per ton of the swine ration,” says Bart Borg, director of nutrition for Standard Nutrition Services.

That’s why Willard values quality soybean meal as a main component of his feed ration. In fact, 92 percent of the soybean meal fed in Illinois goes to pork and poultry rations, reinforcing why ISA promotes to others that chickens and pigs are the top customer of soybeans.

…to Mexico’s Meat Markets

to mexico’s meat markets“Typically, Mexico is the number one importer of U.S. pork by volume,” says Andrew Larson, ISA’s marketing and membership manager. “According to the Pork Checkoff, Mexico purchased 1.56 billion pounds of U.S. pork in 2019, underscoring why maintaining that market is so important. ISA’s relationship with the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) in Mexico allows for us to work on increasing product demand there.”

to mexico’s meat marketsAccording to USMEF, the most popular imported pork product from the U.S. is bone-in hams, and second to that, variety meats like tripe. Leticia Flores, communications specialist for USMEF Mexico, says the country has potential to increase pork consumption per capita.

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About the Author: Rachel Peabody

Rachel Peabody is the communications manager for the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA). She leads internal and external communications efforts and serves as media relations lead and assistant editor of the magazine. She started with the association in 2018. Peabody is a graduate of the University of Illinois with a bachelor’s degree in ag communications. She has a master’s from Illinois in strategic brand communications.