Smithfield Foods is one of highest-volume pork processors world. Some might think that kind of volume would prevent the company from producing a high-end and artisan type of product, but Smithfield markets a product that is exactly that.

Smithfield’s Prime Premium All Natural Fresh Pork line features an array of products including Prime Boneless Pork Chops, Prime Bone-In Pork Shoulder Butt Roast, Prime Boneless Pork Sirloin Roast, Prime Tenderloin, Prime Boneless Loin, Prime Boneless Center Cut Loin, Prime Extra Meaty Back Ribs, Prime Bone-In Thick Cut Pork Chops, Prime St. Louis Style Spareribs, Prime Spareribs and Prime Pork Shoulder Roast. The hand-trimmed cuts contain no artificial ingredients, steroids or growth promotants.

Superior pigs

Smithfield uses Duroc hogs and some of the most stringent quality standards in the industry to create the Prime Premium Fresh line of products, according to Dedra Berg, senior director of fresh pork marketing at Smithfield Foods. She says pork from the line is certifiably 20 percent more tender than other brands giving consumers the ability to replicate a restaurant-quality eating experience at home.

“Many of our competitors have tried to replicate the Smithfield Prime Fresh Pork collection and launch their own premium fresh pork lines,” Berg says. “However, we’re proud that our Smithfield Prime Fresh Pork program is the only one on the market that is genetically based – built on over 10 years of data and 8,000 samples – providing more consistent, unrivaled quality in our products.”

Smithfield leverages the proprietary genetics of its Duroc sire line market hogs to achieve high quality products with improved color, marbling, tenderness and an elevated eating experience.

Smithfield provides its retail customers with the resources to market and promote Prime Premium Fresh Pork products.

“The Duroc sire line is an American heritage pork breed recently recognized by the National Pork Producers Council for its superior genetics, which results in a more premium product,” Berg says.

Smithfield works with 2,000 local producers in the US, as well as company-owned farms primarily located in the Southeast and Midwest to source the Duroc hogs for the Prime Fresh Pork line. This gives the company the ability to trace the hogs back to their farm of origin.

Consumers and barbecue

Berg cites a Pork Consumer Segmentation Study conducted in 2012, consumers understand the overall better flavor and eating experience that higher quality products consistently deliver and will pay more for superior quality, especially from brands they trust. Smithfield has used this information to target retail shoppers looking for high-end products, as well as developing programs for the retailers who target those shoppers.

“When it comes to retail, Smithfield supports our partners with Meat Manager programs to help educate their meat department personnel on the quality of Smithfield Prime Fresh Pork, providing training, digital toolkits, and in-store collateral to help inform their customers on the fresh pork category,” Berg says. “Smithfield Prime Fresh Pork is available at retailers across the country including Bashas’ in the Southwest, ShopRite in the Northeast, and Associated Wholesale Grocers-supplied independents, Cub Foods and Hornbacher’s throughout the Midwest.”

Competitive edge

In addition to the retail consumer who looks for pork of the highest quality, Smithfield’s Prime plays a prominent role in the ever-burgeoning competition barbecue scene. For more than five years Smithfield has continually invested in competition barbecue. In October 2018, the company announced the first national barbecue points chase, Smokin’ with Smithfield National Barbecue Championship, open to any and all competition barbecuers in the US. Many of the regulars on the competition circuit commit to using Smithfield products exclusively.

Smithfield continues to invest in the competition barbecue circuit with its Prime Fresh products playing a predominant role.

The Smokin’ with Smithfield Committed Cooks program has over 500 teams and pitmasters that use Smithfield Fresh Pork exclusively, including winners of high-profile, invitational contests that draw some of the best-known names in barbecue.

“Because of its superior quality and consistency, the Smithfield Prime Fresh Pork collection is frequently used by World Champion pitmasters on the barbecue competition circuit,” Berg says. “Most recently, Darren Warth of Iowa’s Smokey D’s BBQ took home the title of Reserve Grand Champion at the 2018 Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue competition in Lynchburg, Tennessee, and placed first in the Pork Ribs category – receiving a perfect 180 score and besting 100 teams – cooking with Smithfield Prime Fresh Pork.”

“2018 keeps getting better and better – we’re so honored to take home this win at The Jack when competing against the best pitmasters in the world at one of the most prestigious competitions,” Warth said after the win. “To win competitions you need a great team and great, high-quality meat, and that’s why we consistently cook with Smithfield Fresh Pork. Whether we’re on or off the competition circuit, we can trust that we’re always getting the best quality and freshest product you can find.”

Additionally, five-time World Champion pitmaster and Barbecue Hall of Famer Tuffy Stone of Cool Smoke trusts Smithfield Prime Fresh Pork, whether he’s competing in top competitions such as the Jack Daniel’s Invitational or the American Royal, cooking at the legendary James Beard House in NYC, or simply grilling in his backyard.

“Award-winning pitmasters like Darren and Sherry Warth know that quality and consistency are what wins championships – and they know that Smithfield brings that quality and consistency to every package,” says Emily Detwiler, director of fresh pork marketing for Smithfield. “We thank all of our BBQ Alliance and Committed Cooks teams for continuing to represent us among some of the most prestigious and distinguished events in the sport of barbecue and look forward to continue serving them in the 2019 competition season.”

Chef’s perspective

According to Smithfield Prime Messaging Testing, September 2017, 69 percent of consumers trust chefs’ opinions regarding quality fresh pork because of their experience, expertise and credibility within the industry. Smithfield partners with many acclaimed and James Beard Award-winning chefs.

“While we continue to work with some of the best chefs in the country – our main goal is to inspire at-home cooks of any skill level to get creative in the kitchen, knowing they’re starting out with a premium product that is restaurant worthy and chef approved,” Berg says.

Colby Garrelts, chef and co-owner of Bluestem and Rye in Kansas City, Missouri, and 2013 James Beard Foundation Best Chef Midwest winner works with Smithfield to develop recipes using the Prime Fresh Pork line of products. He believes in the Prime Fresh line and the attributes it provides.

“As a chef, I know that not all pork is created equal. Smithfield Prime Fresh Pork delivers consistent, superior quality and flavor that you can taste in every bite,” Garrelts says. “From tender, juicy pork chops to hand-trimmed fresh pork ribs, the color and marbling is simply the best you can find in the grocery store.”

With a quality equals flavor outlook, Garrelts selects high-quality protein first and foremost because protein usually plays the biggest role in any dish.

“Plus, when you start out with quality ingredients, you don’t need to do too much work to create a wholesome dish,” he says, “which makes Smithfield Prime Fresh Pork perfect for at-home cooks, regardless of experience level, who are looking for simple yet delicious meal solutions.”