Iowa Expo Promotes `Other White Meat'

The boost includes a porker race, a Pig-Casso art show, and a raffle, - a letter from Des Moines

A RACETRACK fanfare trumpeted over the Iowa state fairgrounds as Sty Stallone, Roseanne Boar, and Magnum P.I.G. ambled out of the starting gate. Urged on by frantic pork rooters and the aroma of a full trough at the finish line, the three-month-old African bush pigs (which purportedly starred in ``Spambi'' and ``Three Men and a Bacon'') covered the 50-yard course in about the time it takes a refrigerator to defrost, give or take a quarter-hour.

``Sooooweeee!'' the spectators called appreciatively.

Last weekend's 1991 World Pork Expo offered something for nearly every taste among its 60,000 visitors. There was even a whiff of controversy when an animal rights protester disguised as a pig shoved a non-dairy cream pie in the Pork Queen's face. The score was evened later when another pie was aimed at a protester.

More significantly, a four-year drive by the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) to promote pork as ``the other white meat'' is working. Pork consumption increased 4.2 percent in the United States last year.

The NPPC hopes to make pork the ``consumers' meat of choice'' by the year 2000 by publicizing how selective breeding has changed pork: 31 percent less fat, 17 percent fewer calories, and 10 percent less cholesterol today than eight years ago. Some cuts are leaner than chicken breast, the trade group says.

The NPPC, which also lobbies Washington on behalf of the nation's 100,000 hog farmers, has defeated several attempts to eliminate countervailing duties against imports of Canadian pork. And it has the US trade representative threatening retaliation over the European ban on US pork. Sales to Japan and the Caribbean are rising. Total exports of US pork are up 167 percent since 1987.

Sixty percent of the nation's hogs are raised within 300 miles of Des Moines, so the exposition hall bustled with serious-minded visitors. They learned how breeding stock companies use ultrasound machines to measure back fat, saw the latest in farm management software, and grabbed brochures on risk hedging at the Chicago financial exchanges.

Casual visitors found plenty to entertain, from the hog-calling contests and the street dance to the campy craft fair and the ``Squeal of Fortune'' raffle drawing. Onlookers gathered around one exhibit in the animal barn murmured soothing advice as a sow farrowed (gave birth to a litter). During the weekend a dozen other pregnant sows repeated this performance.

Elvis crooned ``My Way'' from the jukebox at the saloon-style Pork Ave. Cafe, where farmers and city folk stood in line for breaded tenderloin sandwiches, hickory-smoked back loin ribs, or filet of pork topped with mushroom gravy.

At the Pig-Casso art show, first place in the oils category went to ``Sty in the Sky,'' a polychrome pigsty on another planet. ``Pig-culiar Dream'' either literally represented a herd of swine swirling in a Midwestern tornado or else was strongly influenced by Marc Chagall. ``Untitled'' was perhaps a feminist statement, with its blindfolded woman in a strapless sun dress and high heels walking a pig across a tightrope as winged porkers performed aerial somersaults in the clouds above.

Outside, NPPC officials supervised the construction of the 256-foot pit for the ``BarbeQlossal'' cook-off. During the expo, some 400 contestants would grill 30,000 pounds of pork and baste it with 700 gallons of barbeque sauce.

Back at the races, Vietnamese potbellied pigs competed in the final heat. Although touted as ``the Orient Express'' and ``lean, mean, racing machines,'' these were the dawdlers of the bunch.

Coming out of the turn Charlie Chan was in the lead but stopped to scratch against the rail. The event was captured by a belly-dragging porker whose name need not be mentioned here.


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