Signature Indiana Pork Event at Indianapolis Provides Visibility for Purdue Veterinary Medicine

Friday, January 26, 2024

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College faculty and staff in attendance join together for a group photo in front of an elaborate flying pig ice sculpture in the middle of the ballroom
Purdue Veterinary Medicine faculty and staff represented the Purdue University Veterinary Hospital and the Indiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory at Indiana Pork’s annual Taste of Elegance event in Indianapolis. Pictured left-right: Dr. Rebecca Wilkes, Dr. Craig Bowen, Kelly Dold, Dr. Kenitra Hendrix, Dr. Laura May, Dr. Viju Vijayan Pillai, Joey Woodyard, and Dr. Mario Sola.

Each year, the Indiana Pork Producers Association, known as Indiana Pork, hosts the Taste of Elegance event in Indianapolis as a way of promoting the pork industry through the creation of tantalizing pork dishes prepared by leading chefs. This year the event on January 17 attracted more than 400 pork farmers, lawmakers, agricultural industry leaders, and dignitaries to the Indiana Roof Ballroom for an evening of elegance and celebration that also provided visibility for the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine. 

The Taste of Elegance features a competition designed to encourage chefs to use pork more frequently in creative, non-traditional ways. Indianapolis chef Craig Baker took home the top award at this year’s event. His entry featured pork prepared in two ways. The dish was a Moo Ping Iberico Pork Secreto with soy forbidden rice, a charred baby beet salad, sticky pork belly, smoked rice krispies, and Thai red curry espuma. As the Taste of Elegance winner, Baker was presented with a check for $1,000 from Indiana Pork.

“Chef Baker is no stranger to food competitions,” said Jeanette Merritt, director of communications of Indiana Pork. “The chef has a great understanding of how to make pork taste delicious and design a plate that is appealing to the judges. His dish was an outstanding example of well-prepared pork!” The event also provided the opportunity for people connected to Indiana agriculture to gather, spend two hours gliding around the ballroom to sample and vote on the finalists’ dishes, and recognize all of the evening’s award winners.

The Purdue University Farm Animal Hospital and the Indiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (ADDL) both showed their support for the Indiana pork industry as Silver Sponsors for the event. The hospital and ADDL were well represented at the Taste of Elegance by faculty and staff who were in attendance, including Dr. Kenitra Hendrix, ADDL director; Dr. Craig Bowen, ADDL assistant director; Dr. Mario Sola, assistant professor of diagnostic pathology and head of the ADDL’s Histopathology and Necropsy Section; Dr. Rebecca Wilkes, associate professor of molecular diagnostics and head of the Molecular and Virology Section; Dr. Viju Vijayan Pillai, assistant professor of anatomic pathology; Dr. Darryl Ragland, professor of food animal production medicine and head of the Veterinary Hospital’s Production Medicine Section; Dr. Laura May, visiting assistant professor of farm animal internal medicine; Joey Woodyard, director of hospital operations; and Kelly Dold, marketing and communications manager for the hospital and ADDL.

The PVM representatives spent time promoting the Purdue University Veterinary Hospital and in particular, the Farm Animal Hospital, as well as sharing about the ADDL’s efforts to increase Indiana’s readiness to respond to African Swine Fever, should it be encountered on U.S. soil. Woodyard commented, “This event was a great opportunity for PVM to connect with members of the pork industry and demonstrate our ongoing commitment to their interests, and obviously it is a great opportunity to taste some fantastic uses of bacon and other pork products. The event was, in a word, elegant!”

The pork industry is a vital part of the Indiana economy. The state ranks fifth in the U.S. for pork production, contributing $394 million in pork exports – one of the top five commodity exports for the state (USDA Economic Research Service, 2022). Moreover, Indiana pork producers annually meet the pork needs of every person in Indiana, plus 15 million more people in the U.S., and 5 million more people around the world. Collectively, animal agriculture contributes more than $4 billion each year to Indiana’s economy.

A split screen of C.J. interviewing Dr. Ragland and then Dr. Bowen off to the side of the ballroom at the event
Drs. Darry Ragland and Craig Bowen were interviewed by Hoosier Ag Today reporter C. J. Miller about animal health issues related to the pork industry during the Taste of Elegance event.

Writer(s): Kelly Dold and Kevin Doerr |

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