The National Pork Board halls are somber this week, mourning the sudden loss of our cherished colleague Kara Behlke Ungerman.
Kara’s absence is deeply felt by all of us who had the privilege to work alongside her. She passed unexpectedly on August 4, just after bringing a beautiful baby boy into this world. Our heartfelt condolences go out to her family, especially her husband and newborn son.
A Beacon in Nutrition and Wellness
Kara’s professional journey is one that has inspired and touched many. Serving as the vice president of nutrition, health and wellness transformation at NPB, Kara’s visionary leadership was pivotal and uniquely combined agriculture, food, health and nutrition.
As a registered dietitian nutritionist, she developed a health and wellness platform to build trust in and add value to the pork industry. She was the force behind many successful initiatives, always driving innovative progress in research and behavior change.
Building a Health and Wellness Competency for Pork
Kara spent three years developing a long-term health and wellness strategy for the pork industry. Knowing that people’s eating habits and attitudes are changing, Kara’s approach was designed to ensure pork plays a role in a healthy diet and lifestyle choices.
Calling: To help the pork industry be part of the solution to feed and nourish the world for healthier people and a happier planet.
Mission: To support research and education on the important role of eating fresh pork in happier, healthier lives. She encouraged industry and partner collaboration to compound efforts for a greater good and a bigger impact.
Goal: Be proactive and positive; to generate evidence with rigor that advances science and transforms people’s perceptions about pork.
Using Pork Checkoff funds, she invested in three core pillars to create a bedrock for the health and wellness competency at NPB that also serves as a springboard for industry collaboration.
Human Nutrition Research
Guided by a producer task force and experts, Kara crafted a research roadmap to champion nutritious eating worldwide. This guide helps NPB allocate resources efficiently and collaborate effectively. The focus is highlighting pork as a versatile and sustainable protein choice for all. Among the projects, Kara was exploring pork’s cognitive benefits and its role in the USDA Thrifty Food Plan [▶️ watch the webinar]. She was making strides in positioning pork prominently on the global nutrition map.
Kara worked to establish a strong health and wellness identity and help pork take control of our own story. Instead of constantly defending our stance, her guidance was to forge ahead proactively, connecting research to relevant topics for consumers. The Surprisingly Pork initiative, guided by an NPB board working group, translates health and wellness research into engaging content that challenges existing beliefs about pork. The final strategy blueprint is currently rolling out initial projects. Through consistent efforts, the goal is to shift perceptions, reach wider audiences and position pork as a top protein choice.
Health Professional Engagement
To ignite meaningful change, Kara envisioned amplifying pork’s mission through targeted advocacy. Her plan was to pinpoint common interests and values across individuals, businesses and sectors. Using Pork & Partners as a catalyst, she was encouraging health professionals to see pork’s wellness potential in a new way. Through ongoing dialogues on current topics, she was fostering community and advocacy. This unified approach streamlines efforts and paves the way for impactful, proactive changes.
Memories from Pork Producers
While her professional accolades are many, to those of us at NPB, she was more than just a colleague. In these tough times, pork producers reflect on their time with her and the lasting legacy she leaves behind.
“The first word that comes to mind when I think of Kara is ‘passionate.’ From the moment she addressed the Board, it was evident that she would be an invaluable asset to the National Pork Board and all pork producers. I had the privilege of collaborating with her on the ‘Well Being Working Group’ and ‘Pork and Partners.’ Kara consistently showcased thorough preparation, often surprising me with the depth of research she brought to each project. I always seized any opportunity to work alongside her.
Beyond her passion for work, Kara was genuinely a wonderful person and friend. We often exchanged stories about our mutual love for Disney, family farming, our personal families and the experiences of motherhood. I still have a cherished photo on my phone from when she shared her engagement news with me. We often offered prayers for each other. My profound sorrow lies in the realization that she won’t be able to share her future joys with me and the countless others her life touched.”Deb Ballance, pork producer from North Carolina and NPB board member
“I so appreciated Kara’s vision for the future of pork and the strategy to get there. She not only had an amazing ability to create strategy and vision herself, but she also brought in exceptional people who shared her enthusiasm for the work on behalf of pork producers. She introduced her team to pork producers with pride, ensuring these agencies knew just how honored she was to work every day on behalf of America’s pork producers.
As we move on without Kara, her hard work, planning, strategy, and vision ensure that we are not a ship without a rudder, drifting away from our purpose. We have a charted course, a plan, a vision, and a strategy that will guide those of us left behind to promote tasty, nutritious pork to America. However, we all would have preferred to have her at the helm. Thank you, Kara. I will miss you dearly.”Charlotte Rommereim, pork producer from South Dakota, registered dietitian nutritionist
Photos of Kara
As we mourn, let us also remember the vibrant spirit of Kara Behlke Ungerman, cherishing her memories and celebrating the immense impact she had on the intersection where pork meets nutrition and wellness, and more importantly, on each of our lives.