The Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (or PEDV) entered the U.S. approximately one year ago. Because PEDV can infect piglets but poses no risk to market hogs, sows, other animals or humans, farmers are making progress in managing the disease by helping their sows – and their litters – develop immunity to the disease.
PEDV is not a threat to food safety, and pork remains safe to eat. To date, the Pork Checkoff – funded by the nation’s pig farmers – has invested nearly $2 million in PEDV-related research. We continue to partner with state and federal agencies, veterinarian and feed groups, along with animal health companies and some of the nation’s leading universities to better understand this disease, how it’s transferred and the potential for developing management tools to control it. The pork industry has a proven track record of success in managing and overcoming production setbacks.
Over the past winter, millions of piglets died due to the PED virus, resulting in reduced pork supplies and higher prices heading into summer. Prices are also up due to continued global demand for pork in retail and foodservice. It’s normal for the marketplace to react to the fact that hog slaughter is down compared to last summer. But as noted recently in Daily Livestock Report, the PEDV situation is currently a “pretty transient situation in which pig numbers are reduced for a period of time before returning to more‐or-less normal levels.”
Consumer-level prices have already risen and will naturally continue to rise due to potentially lower supply, but farmers and packers are trying to alleviate the supply reductions by taking hogs to heavier market weights. This action takes advantage of both lower feed costs and stronger prices for market weight hogs at the farm level, while providing more product for merchandisers and consumers. Heavier hogs make up for a portion of the volume of market pigs lost due to PEDV.
The USDA estimates that the summer 2014 slaughter will run anywhere from 2 to 4% lower than year-ago levels. From where we stand today, it is manageable, and should USDA’s market hog inventories prove accurate, higher slaughter weights could result in summer pork production very close to that of 2013. We will keep you updated with information from many sources including the Daily Livestock Report, the Hogs and Pigs Report, and our Foodservice edition of the Pork Profit Maximizer.