There isn’t much good news for meat eaters this year. Beef prices are at all time highs, and they are expected to stay that way for the foreseeable future. The solution to this would usually be to move to another meat source such as pork, but pork prices are also at all time highs, and it appears those prices may get worse.
Pork prices are already at an all-time high at $4.10 per pound, but the odds are these prices will climb higher by the end of the year. The Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) is currently taking a short hiatus with the warmer summer time weather, but US veterinarians are predicting there will be further outbreaks once autumn arrives, and the weather begins to get colder. If their predictions are correct, pig farmers in the US may have to put down another 2.5 million pigs over the next 12 months, in addition to the 8 million they have already had to kill since the virus first broke out in in April, 2013. A resurgence of PEDv in the fall would create a situation where pork prices will hit more all-time highs.
While the USDA approved a vaccine created by the Iowa-based company Harrisvaccines this past week, the effectiveness of the vaccine in cold weather is quite uncertain. The worry is with colder weather, the virus could overwhelm the immunity of the herd, thereby creating an outbreak even among those pig herds which have been immunized. PEDv spreads rapidly in damp and cold conditions, so it has slowed as summer has arrived. However, it’s expected to come back with a vengeance once the colder weather arrives.
PEDv has already killed an estimated 10% of the US pork herd, the main reason for the current high pork prices. If the virus continues to spread as autumn arrives, pork prices could rise to above $4.50 a pound, and even higher depending on how devastating it is to herds. It would also mean millions of dollars of losses to pig farmers, and further jeopardize international trade. China, Japan and Russia, all countries which import US pork, have restricted imports of live US pigs due to the virus.
The National Pork Board wants more research to be done to study and better understand immunity and transmission of the disease in an effort to prevent the virus from making the strong autumn comeback many are predicting. The USDA is taking the situation seriously by requiring farmers to report all new cases of PEDv, as well as allotting $26 million to help fight any outbreaks.
The USDA says the virus does not pose a threat to humans or other animals. It also doesn’t pose any risk to food safety, and the pork on grocery shelves, although pricey, is safe to eat.
(Photo courtesy of The Pug Father)