Tag Archives: Pork

This year has been stressful for everyone, but COVID-19 has caused excruciating issues for the pork industry. From market disruptions due to plant closures and decimation of the food-service sector, to pork producers having to make incredibly difficult decisions because of over-capacity, it’s been a year for the ages.

“Meat sales rocketed in the spring with panic-buying,” said Bill Even, CEO of the National Pork Board, during a keynote address at the recent 2020 U.S. Animal Health Association virtual annual meeting. “But as the restaurant industry was shutting down, the supply chain became out of balance. We ended up with a lot of product destined for food service that wasn’t packaged for sale at retail grocery.”

The Checkoff, along with the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), quickly went to work to address industry concerns associated with COVID-19.

Common sense, collaborative response

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) established the National Incident Coordination Center in May. The Center provides “direct support to producers whose animals cannot move to market as a result of processing plant closures due to COVID-19,” according to a USDA news release. “Going forward, APHIS’ Coordination Center, State Veterinarians, and other state officials will be assisting to help identify potential alternative markets if a producer is unable to move animals, and if necessary, advise and assist on depopulation and disposal methods.”

Additionally, APHIS said it would “mobilize and deploy assets of the National Veterinary Stockpile as needed and secure the services of contractors that can supply additional equipment, personnel, and services, much as it did during the large-scale Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza emergency in 2015.”

The USDA’s Natural Resources and Conservation Service (NRCS) also “provided state-level technical assistance to producers and cost-share assistance under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), in line with program guidelines for disposal,” the release said.

“The Pork Checkoff was committed to doing everything possible to also assist in the response,” Even said, including:

 Resources for producers and states

 Representation of the industry to consumers

 Collaboration across the supply chain to address unprecedented market disruptions

“Our three main goals during the crisis were to: 1. Help processing plants continue to operate; 2. Help producers and states with emergency depopulation and disposal and; 3. Help protect pork’s image from farm to fork,” Even said.

Eye of the hurricane

The pork industry was in the eye of the hurricane, Even said, so action to help producers was swift and decisive. The Checkoff worked with state pork producer associations to keep members comprised of the situation by producing factual resources including 13 weekly webinars, a weekly e-newsletter, an online packing capacity map, and emergency depopulation and disposal field research, including 7 research projects totaling $240,000. In addition, the Checkoff provided state pork association support with reallocation of $3 million in Checkoff funds.

The Checkoff also worked closely with the North American Meat Institute to provide support for the packing industry, Even said. “We provided resources for [essential food worker] employees through public health expertise and created digital ads thanking food workers who were deployed during the pandemic,” Even said. “We invested $500,000 and had more than 20 million views in U.S. communities that had packing plants.”

“We turned on a dime and completely revamped our domestic marketing strategy, too,” he added. “Real-time research helped us re-direct our marketing programs by understanding consumer behavior, sentiment, and buying habits.”

Lessons learned

In June, Even and the Checkoff staff did an after-action review. “We realized we really weren’t prepared for large-scale emergency depopulation and disposal,” he said. More resources would be needed to respond efficiently and effectively if another crisis – like a foreign animal disease – were to enter the country.

“We learned farmer-led solutions worked best, and that more research is needed on viable emergency depopulation and disposal methods,” Even said. Knowledge gained from the COVID-19 pandemic will help the pork industry better prepare for an FAD, Even said. Important components include:

 Effective response plans with identified and available resources

 Validation of diagnostic tests and sampling methods finalized prior to an outbreak

 Effective vaccines on-the-ready and stockpiled

 Contact tracing to reduce the spread of disease

The feral swine issue must be addressed, too, Even said. It’s estimated there are more than 6 million feral swine in the U.S. “We saw what happened in Germany, where their pork industry lost more than one billion dollars in a 24-hour period when feral pigs tested positive for ASF,” he pointed out. “We have a little bit of a breather right now with international travel dropping off so significantly [in terms of an FAD being brought in through an illegal food product].

Regionalization benefits

An FAD would cause immediate closure of export markets, to the tune of an estimated $15 billion in losses to the pork industry over a 2-year period, according to Iowa State University economist Dermott Hayes. That number would rise to $50 billion in losses over 10 years. “The USDA is working on regionalization with our trade partners,” Even said. “Animal movement tracing is an important factor in regionalization with trade partners,” Even said. “USDA is working with major pork export markets to make sure a US regionalization plan would be recognized by key partners.”

Even said a web-based technology solution called AgView would provide a rapid, informed response – vital for containing an FAD outbreak. “It adds a new level of practical benefits to the Secure Pork Supply, and the software will provide near- real-time disease status to facilitate disease trace-back,” Even said. “With producer permission, AgView can quickly share with animal health officials the type and size of farms, animal movements, positive tracing and lab results. It integrates with database systems and an Excel upload option is available.”

“The voluntary program is funded by the Checkoff and USDA, and will be available at no cost to producers,” he added, noting the program is scheduled to launch around mid-November. “You’re always going to have some gaps because [the program] is not mandatory but we want to start with as many people as possible. By doing so, producers put themselves in a better position with animal health officials – if they can show their herd is ASF negative, they will likely be able to move pigs more quickly,” Even said.

Work in progress

Even said the industry will never be completely prepared because a plan can easily become obsolete over time, but the more knowledge gained from experiences like the COVID-19 pandemic, the more tools the industry has at its disposal to deal with an FMD or other unusual circumstance.

“Every month that goes by, we get a little better at hardening our defenses,” Even said. “COVID-19 has really shown us our strengths and weaknesses and we can’t back off. I was a volunteer firefighter for 17 years in my home town so I know how important it is to constantly ‘sharpen the saw’ and be prepared.”

Editor’s Note: The USAHA covers topics ranging from zoonotic diseases, to regulations, to specific diseases in cattle, horses, sheep, cervids, poultry and pigs, and much more. Leaders from government, industry and academia work alongside producers to find solutions to health issues that can help animal agriculture thrive.

Earlier this month, Mexico modified its Foreign Trade Law Agreement to comply with its new Front-of-Package Labeling law that went into effect on Oct. 1. The modifications require shipments of prepackaged food products previously exempted from labeling to immediately comply with the new labeling law by removing exemptions for: imported goods that would not be sold to the public in the form in which they were imported; imported goods to be used directly by a company not subject to commercialization; products destined to remain in the border area or regions of Mexico; and products imported by those who carry out marketing activities and provide restaurant assistance. Prepackaged products within those categories—including foodservice products—must now comply with the new labeling standard.

The U.S. exports processed pork to Mexico, which will now need to comply with this law. The National Pork Producers Council reports this could add incremental costs and potentially reduce Mexican consumption of U.S.-processed pork.



You’ve waited all year and it’s finally here. An entire month dedicated to tender, juicy, delicious pork! October is National Pork Month, so join me and the 1500 pork farmers across Nebraska in celebrating.

“If you have eaten a slice of bacon, pork chop or pulled pork smothered in barbeque sauce, you have a connection to a pork farmer.” Nebraska’s pig farmers recognize that consumers have a growing interest in understanding where pork comes from and how it is produced. Now more than ever, we have access to many tools and resources to better care for our animals and meet consumer demand.

Pork is the worlds’ most widely eaten meat, ahead of chicken and beef. In Nebraska we have more pigs than in the past 20 years. This growth means we are positively affecting our local economies. We are proud to add $1.14 billion of value to our gross state product. With 1-in-4 jobs coming from agriculture, we know that we play a valuable role in this area.

The pork industry is committed to managing operations in the most environmentally responsible way possible. Conservation, recycling, land management, water quality, air quality and manure management are areas of priority for pig farmers for continuous improvement. Safeguarding the environment comes naturally to Nebraska’s pork producers because they understand their inherent responsibility to future generations.

COVID-19 presented a number of challenges in 2020 to our industry that we hope to never see again. Our farmers met each one with courage and determination. Through it all they succeeded in doing what they do best for their family, animals, employees and community by donating over 10,000 pounds of pork to neighbors in need through our “Pork Cares” project.

October is Pork Month and it is a time when we celebrate and remember all the hard-working farm families that are there every day of the year so we can all enjoy a safe, sustainable, affordable, and yes, a ‘tasty’ food we call pork!

The National Pork Producers Council says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has stalled the development of emerging technology with tremendous promise for livestock agriculture.

The FDA has claimed regulatory jurisdiction over gene-edited livestock and has stalled the technology in the U.S. for more than two years, according to NPPC. However, the scientists who invented one of the most promising forms of this technology, the “CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors,” were just awarded the Nobel Prize.

NPPC President Howard A.V. Roth states the Nobel Prize award serves notice that “If we don’t move oversight of gene-edited livestock to the USDA, we will have ceded this promising technology to global competitors at the expense of American jobs and our nation’s global agricultural leadership position.”

The National Pork Producers Council has repeatedly called for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to be granted gene-edited livestock regulatory oversight. NPPC says gene editing accelerates genetic improvement that would occur naturally over time by making changes to an animal’s own genome.

The quarterly hogs and pigs report released by the USDA showed that in the third quarter of 2020 the US hog inventory was up 1% vs. year ago levels.

According to USDA the US inventory of all hogs and pigs on September 1, 2020 was 79.1 million head. This was up 1% from September 1, 2019, but down 1% from June 1, 2020. Breeding inventory, at 6.33 million head, was down 2% from last year, but up slightly from the previous quarter. Market hog inventory, at 72.8 million head, was up 1% percent from last year, but down 1% from last quarter. The June-August 2020 pig crop, at 35.1 million head, was down 3% from 2019. Sows farrowing during this period totaled 3.18 million head, down 3% from 2019. The sows farrowed during this quarter represented 50% of the breeding herd. The average pigs saved per litter was 11.04 for the June-August period, compared to 11.11 last year.

US hog producers intend to have 3.12 million sows farrow during the September-November 2020 quarter, down 5% from the actual farrowings during the same period one year earlier, and down 3% from the same period two years earlier. Intended farrowings for December 2020-February 2021, at 3.11 million sows, are down 1%
from the same period one year earlier, but up slightly from the same period two years earlier.

The total number of hogs under contract owned by operations with over 5,000 head, but raised by contractees, accounted for 47% of the total United States hog inventory, down 1% from the previous year.

Darrell Holaday, Country Futures, believes there is some discrepancy between the USDA data and the cash hog market. Cash hogs continue to move higher which doesn’t line up with a larger supply as the data indicates.