DES MOINES, Iowa – Victims of the massive earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern sections of Japan on March 11 are receiving US pork to help ease their food needs, thanks to a partnership between US pork producers and the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF). More than 500,000 Japanese residents are without adequate food and shelter, based on estimates, and food shortages could last into the summer.

The National Pork Board, on behalf of US pork producers and importers, has allocated $100,000 from the Pork Checkoff to provide pork products and product distribution to those Japanese people in need, said Conley Nelson, a pork producer from Iowa and NPB member. USMEF represents the US meat industry in Japan from its Tokyo-based office and will work with US pork packers and others who have established distribution networks in Japan to ensure food gets to the needy. Ensuring food requiring little or no preparation, such as pre-made bento (lunch) boxes, can be provided to people who have been displaced is the goal of this outreach program.

Hormel Foods Corporation has also pledged more than $100,000 toward an employee match donation for the American Red Cross and a donation of the SPAM family of products to support near- and long-term relief efforts in Japan. “Our employees are saddened by the devastation in Japan and are eager to help,” said Jeffrey Ettinger, chairman of the board, president and CEO. “Our thoughts are with everyone affected by the disaster and the relief volunteers and organizations.”

"Our hearts go out to the Japanese people who have suffered from this terrible natural disaster," Nelson said. "The US has named its relief efforts in Japan Operation Tomodachi, or Operation Friendship. In the spirit of friendship, US pork producers are pleased that we can become a small part of the effort to help alleviate the suffering of those affected by the earthquake."

The Pork Checkoff, which has built a loyal customer base in Japan, has promoted pork in that country for many years. Japan has long been the top export customer for US pork. Japan bought $1.6 billion of U.S. pork in 2010.

"As an American pork producer, I am proud that US pork producers and importers through the NPB are the first to step forward and provide seed money for this critical initiative," said Danita Rodibaugh, chair-elect of USMEF and a pork producer from Rensselaer, Ind. "We are hopeful others will join us and offer their support for the people of Japan who have been great friends of US agriculture."

Others in the US pork industry are being encouraged by the NPB to match their contribution and expand the reach of this effort. Those interested in providing pork product or monetary donations should e-mail USMEF’s Jim Herlihy atjherlihy@usmef.orgor phone (303) 623-6328.