Premier Ed Stelmach hammed it up for photographers as he chowed down on a pork sandwich yesterday to show his support for Alberta’s pork industry, which has been reeling since the influenza A (H1N1), also known as swine flu, scare began.

Roughly 1,500 free sandwiches were served by dozens of Alberta pork producers to hungry lunch-goers at the legislature grounds in a rally that is a much-needed morale boost for farmers, said organizers.

“Our pork is safe and we want to show that confidence to our consumers,” said Roy Kruse, a director of consumer services with Alberta Pork.

“This has been very difficult for our producers and we really need to rally behind them.”

Many countries, including China, have closed their doors to pork from Canada ever since the scare began in Mexico. Alberta’s industry took another public relations hit when 2,200 pigs in a farm near Rocky Mountain House were infected by a worker with swine flu, earlier this month.

Roughly 500 head of pigs were culled to ease overcrowding concerns at the farm, said Alberta health officials who add the issue is not a food safety concern.

The remaining pigs are still under quarantine at the farm, but the farmer has asked the government through the media to cull all of his pigs to send a message to consumers around the world.

“The talk is worse than anything else,” said Joe Wipf, a Lethbridge area pork producer. “If this name wouldn’t have been given, the swine flu instead of its real name, nothing would have happened.”

Stelmach told producers during the rally that talks are underway with provincial leaders to come up with a plan to get pork back on store shelves in grocery stores around the world.

“Canadian pork products are safe, and we expressed our dismay that countries like China and Russia are making decisions to ban pork without scientific justification,” said Stelmach.