Warmer weather is finally making an appearance and, along with it, grilling season. But if you’ve been to the grocery store recently to purchase that perfect pork chop to throw on the grill, you might have noticed an uptick in the price of pork.
The price hike is due to a disease that affects pigs called Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus, or PEDv. PEDv was first identified in the United Kingdom in 1971, but has since spread across the world, making its first appearance in the United States in May 2013.
While it sounds scary, there are some things you need to know. First and most importantly, pork is safe to eat and remains to be safe, despite the disease. In other words, humans are not affected by PEDv and cannot catch the disease.
PEDv does, however, affect pigs — and dramatically. The virus causes extreme diarrhea in young pigs, and mortality rates can be very high. In fact, if it spreads into a sow herd with young pigs, mortality rates can range from 80 to 100 percent.
In many cases, economists and industry insiders predicted staggering PEDv losses this winter, with some predicting more than 11 percent of baby pigs would died due to the disease. But preliminary numbers from this winter show that about 7 percent of the baby pigs in the U.S. did not survive, with most of those deaths attributable to PEDv.
Farmers have been able to fill the hole left in the meat market by raising hogs to a heavier weight. Additionally, most pork producers were already into an expansion phase this winter, leading to a 3 percent increase in births. The three percent increase in birthing pigs coupled a 7 percent loss over the winter adds up to just a 4 percent loss overall — much better than predicted and, hopefully, easier to overcome.
But like most things, time will tell when it comes to pork prices in the grocery store. Obviously, summer months tend to bring out the highest demand for pork products, and it’s tough to tell how June and July hog supplies will impact harvesting runs and meat availability.
The good news is warmer summer weather may be helping curb PEDv losses. According to Chris Hurt, an agricultural economist at Purdue University, PEDv thrives in cold winter temperatures and this year’s harsh winter may have just been the perfect storm for the disease.
And what are farmers doing to curb the spread of PEDv? Farmers are increasing biosecurity mandates on their farms, requiring stricter cleaning policies and closer inspection of visitors and suppliers.
In the end, it’s important to remember that farmers are doing everything they can to prevent the spread of the disease on their farms and produce a safe and sustainable product for your dinner table.