The Iowa State Bacon Expo hosted its seventh annual event for Iowa State students and their families to learn more about the swine industry and enjoy all kinds of bacon Saturday at the Jeff and Deb Hansen Agricultural Student Learning Center.
Once inside the expo, attendees were handed paper plates intended to be filled with the various bacon inspired food provided by the many vendors. Lines formed as people waited to try anything from slices of bacon to bacon wrapped jalapeños, to bacon cookies.
Jacob Sterle, a junior in animal science, is one of the three tri-chairs of the Iowa State Bacon Expo executive committee. This year the expo took a different approach to the timing of the event to try and bring in more people.
“We’ve been traditionally right at the end of CALS [College of Agriculture and Life Sciences] week,” Sterle said. “Last year the end of CALS week also fell on family weekend and we saw an increase in attendance [...] so this year we kind of took a gamble and decided to pair up with family weekend to see if we could get increased attendance.”
Within minutes of the start of the expo, the Jeff and Deb Hansen Agricultural Student Learning Center filled with people. While the event is in part about eating bacon, it is supposed to teach people about bacon, too.
“We’re basically using bacon to bring people in and teach them about the current swine industry,” Sterle said. “How animals are raised, how we treat our animals with the most respect, and then basically teach [people] where their food comes from.”
Sterle is among the three who are in charge of the Iowa State Bacon Expo. Then, the club has an executive team of 24 members. The rest of the club is made of more than 125 members who help on the day of the expo.
Preparation for the expo starts with the selection of the executive team at the first of the year, making the bacon expo two semesters of planning, Sterle said.
Among the many booths of bacon vendors and activities, the Iowa Pork Producers Association was represented by two Iowa State students.
Gracie Greiner, a freshman in animal science, wore the crown of the Iowa Pork Queen. Alongside Greiner was one of two ambassadors of the association, Carli Grau, a junior in agricultural and life sciences education.
“We are here promoting pork and educating others about the swine industry,” Greiner said. "[...] We really want to get across those basic messages that people kind of have misconceptions about. We’re really teaching people the fact that we care as producers.”
One of those misconceptions is the cooking temperature of pork — Grau said people might not realize 145℉ is the safe and proper temperature.
In addition to the safety of pork consumption, visitors also learned about the safety of the pigs themselves. Within the circle of bacon booths, an educational table was set up to teach people about biosecurity in the swine industry.
Eleanor Meon, a 10-year-old visiting with her family, got the chance to experience what it is like to be a pig farmer doing chores.
“I had [on] a suit that hog farmers wear to go tend to the pigs,” Moen said. “I learned that they need to wear all that equipment just to keep the pigs safe.”
These biosecurity suits are one of the many ways swine producers prevent the spread of disease and promote the health of their animals. Without healthy livestock, consumers would not be able to enjoy pork.
Enjoying pork was a common theme among people at the Bacon Expo. They played bingo, listened to live music, saw live pigs and learned about the swine industry. Not to mention the many plates full of bacon snacks.
“[I like] just seeing how happy the attendees are. Everyone is just really happy to eat a lot of bacon [...] it’s just a happy atmosphere,” Sterle said.