That bacon bra you have been eager to create is going to cost you a pretty penny now that news of a swine-based virus, never previously seen before, doomed the lives of several million baby pigs this year.
Unsure of how it is spreading and with no known cure available, pork production has slowed and prices are estimated to soar upwards of 10 percent or higher. Estimates of case data indicate that at least 6 million piglets died as a result of the virus that has spanned across 27 states since last May.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers a more conservative report on the sickness, citing around 3% of the 63 million pigs in the affected area fell victim to the virus since the first known outbreak. Scientists believe they have narrowed down the origin of the virus to China, though they still do not understand how it came here, as it doesn’t affect humans or other animals.
The federal government is now looking into how this virus and others like it pass through American borders, while the pork industry has devoted $1.7 million towards the research and eradication of the virus. And all this boils down to the prices you will have to pay for the bacon and other pork-related meats.
Even without the new virus and its headaches, bacon prices have soared due to its immense popularity from the many bacon-inspired photos racing around the net, to the tune of 13% over last year. The price per pound of bacon was up to $5.46 as of February, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ham, pork chops and other cuts of pork meat have fared better than bacon, rising only slightly. But as this virus continues to wreak uncontrolled havoc across the United States, prices are expected to climb much, much higher.
In Iowa, the largest pork supplying state in the nation, farmer and veterinarian Craig Rowles described how he and his crew desperately tried to save the 150,000 pigs he produces yearly by taking extreme measures such as limiting visitors and making the crew change clothes when entering and exiting the barns. But none of this offered any assistance in the reduction of damage the virus threatened, and over 13,000 pigs died over the course of a few short weeks, most of them less than 2 weeks old.
“It’s very difficult for the people who are working the barns at that point,” Rowles said. “… No one wants to go to work today and think about making the decision of baby pigs that need to be humanely euthanized because they can’t get up anymore. Those are very hard days.”
While the virus, which causes diarrhea which rapidly dehydrates and kills the bacon-making animals, has hit the United States powerfully, there is hope that the numbers will decrease as the weather gets warmer, as it seems to thrive the best in cold weather. But with the long winter we have had and a potentially cooler year than normal being forecasted, bacon producing states in the upper midwest fear entire herds could be wiped out, taking with it the year’s profits. both China and the United States have agreed to mutual requirements that need a veterinarian to certify that pigs entering each country are virus-free. Several drug companies are dashing to the front to try to develop a vaccine, but as of yet nothing has been approved by the FDA.
If all goes well, it may be at least another 6 months before the prices of bacon and other pork items return to normal, as it generally takes 6 months for a piglet to mature enough to be ready for market. And while this may limit your bacon on bacon with bacon bacon burger, you aren’t the only one who is feeling the effects of the massive death toll. Companies such as Smithfield Foods who leads the nation largest pork processing plants, have been forced to cut worker’s hours to just 4 days a week in North Carolina, and they are poised to do the same across the midwest if things don’t get better fast. While Smithfield Foods declined to comment on this and related topics, Steve Meyer, an Iowa-based economist and pork industry consultant, had this to say about the outbreak:
“We’re all used to: ‘We’ve got plenty of food, it’s cheap. We’ll eat what we want to,'” Meyer said. “We Americans are very spoiled by that, but this is one of those times that we’re going to find out that when one of these things hits, it costs us a lot of money.”
So perhaps you will have to trade in your desire to make a Kevin Bacon portrait out of bacon for the time being, (a nice chair made out of fried chicken might help to curb your urge). If you love your pork and the delicious forms it comes in, I’m pretty sure now would be a great time to buy up some stock in it.
— WSB-TV (@wsbtv) April 9, 2014
Virus, never seen b/4 in US, killed millions of baby pigs. Pork production threatened = higher prices for bacon. http://t.co/qapmyRx9YO
— The State Newspaper (@thestate) April 9, 2014
Flip through the Huffington Post’s list of the oddest bacon creations by clicking here.
Care to drool over the different kinds of ways you can eat bacon? Might want to jump on some of these recipes before the prices go up!