The American meat industry has long been criticized for the unnaturally plump livestock, but this year pigs grown in the U.S. are too fat even for the ham industry, who say that they just can not use the over sized pigs whose legs normally make the holiday hams that adorn many American tables during the festive season.
So, just why are America's pigs too fat this year? The problem for pig farmers began when a virus wiped out many of the piglets earlier in the year. In an attempt to compensate for this, the pig farmers began to over feed the hogs, even more than the industry normally does in order to get more meat out of them to sell. This has resulted in pigs who are too fat, weighing in at a whopping 215.5 lbs on average, a record for pigs, says the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). So far this year, meat producers slaughtered over 92 million hogs. That is around 5 million less than the previous year -- but the demand is just as high.
This plan has back-fired on the farmers because ham producers across the country look for pigs they can use to produce their best seller of the season, spiral hams. These hams normally run about 17-20 lbs a piece, but since these pigs are too fat, they are producing hams that weigh an average of 23-27 lbs, which manufacturers say is just too large for the average consumer to be interested in.
Since the pigs are too fat, that means there is a shortage for the ham companies, which is driving up the price of the holiday favorite by as much as $0.50 per pound.
This may also open up the pork industry to more criticism from animal rights groups, who have long criticized the practices of the the meat industry. The meat industry has also taken heavy fire from health and nutrition advocates as well as environmental groups who have been outspoken about the environmental impact of the meat industry, which can contaminate ground water supplies, pollute the ocean, and lead to a massive rise in greenhouse gases. Some consumers may choose to opt for healthier options as the price of ham rises, while others may simply choose other meat like turkey or simply accept the fact that they will have to pay a premium for their traditional meal since the pigs are too fat this year -- in hopes that the market may change in the coming year.
[Image: Jar Spot]