KANSAS CITY, Mo.Pork prices may spike in the near future as U.S. pork producers struggle to fight off a deadly virus that has killed about 1 million baby pigs across the country.
The Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDV) causes severe diarrhea in pigs of all ages, but it is especially harmful to piglets, according to information released by the Iowa Pork Industry Center. PEDV first broke out in Great Britain in 1971, causing sporadic outbreaks of the pig disease in parts of Europe and Asia ever since. In May 2013, the disease finally hit the United States.
The impact of PEDV on pork prices remains unknown, but losses have not yet filtered through to even affect the cost of a pig. While losing 1 million piglets seems detrimental, a USDA report shows this number is actually a small portion of the 66 million pigs reported in the United States in 2013.
Despite PEDV's damaging effects, a number of other factors may aid in keeping pork prices steady. Feed prices are low from a huge corn harvest in 2013, and many farmers will make their hogs meatier to reduce pork losses in the coming year.
PEDV continues to spread rapidly through the fecal matter of pigs, and animal health companies are hard at work to perfect a vaccine for stopping the disease. However, nothing offers 100% protection at this point. Larger farms are especially susceptible due to more opportunities for the disease to spread through trucks and people moving from barn to barn.
The virus does not affect human health or food safety, but it remains difficult to say whether or not pork prices could skyrocket due to PEDV's negative effects on the industry.