Hog Virus Causes Woes For Farmers

Mar 10, 2014

A deadly virus that’s plagued U.S. hog farms for almost a year has triggered record-high prices for pork heading to market this spring and summer. That means you’ll likely be paying more for pork and bacon, at least for the next few months.

Hog producer Phil Borgic of Nokomis, Ill., lost one full month of piglets to the PED virus
Credit Peter Gray / Harvest Public Media

The Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus – or PEDv – hits piglets the hardest.

Once they contract the disease, they can’t properly digest milk from their mother… and many simply wither away. The disease isn’t a threat to humans, but millions of pigs have died.

The losses at hog farms aren’t easy to pin down, though, because the government doesn’t track every lost pig.

Chris Hurt, an ag economist at Purdue Univeristy, says the unknowns are fueling some wild speculation in the hog market and an “explosive” price upswing that consumers will soon begin to notice.

“Our most recent data on pork is it’s up about 4.5 percent, versus a year ago at the grocery store. Bacon’s at about 8 percent higher. And I think those percentages are going to grow into the spring and summer.”

While the prices of products other than meat have largely been holding steady so far this year, if you’re thinking about pork for a summer barbecue, you may want to brace for some “sticker shock” at the butcher’s counter.

Harvest Public Media is a collaboration of stations focusing on farm and food production issues.