Pork is Safe

Posted: 5/12/2009

Posted by Dave Uttecht, Beadle County Pork Producer


We’ve all watched the news coverage of the H1N1 flu outbreak over the last few weeks.  I’m sure everyone has been paying a little closer attention to the health of their friends and family these days.  No one in my family has gotten sick, but that hasn’t stopped the flu outbreak from hitting very close to home for me.  I raise hogs in Central South Dakota, and like the thousands of other pork producers across the country, the outbreak has caused a serious “financial flu” for our operation. 


Initially misnamed the “swine flu,” the reports of a fast-spreading and life-threatening virus spreading around the world triggered a drop in pork prices.  The economics of hog production were already challenging, but after the flu outbreak, making a profit became downright impossible.  In fact, as of May 1, the average pork producer lost $17.89 for every hog sold. 


All of this hysteria around pork is despite the fact that the U.S. pork supply is absolutely safe.  You can’t get the H1N1 virus from eating pork or pork products and no cases of the flu have been found in the U.S. swine population.


Pork producers and organizations have done a great job of speaking up and countering the myths about pork production and the outbreak.  Within days of the outbreak announcement, regulators, elected officials and media were all correctly referring to H1N1 virus instead of “swine flu.”


I find it interesting, though, that the concerns about the safety of the pork supply come at a time when pork producers are doing more than ever before to keep our animals safe and prevent illness.  Our top priority is providing the best care possible for our animals.


Today, hogs live in clean, safe controlled environments.  Buildings are carefully designed with proper ventilation, feeding, and manure management systems.  The animals receive regular veterinary care and are monitored for any changes in health or feeding patterns.


Hogs are susceptible to a variety of illnesses, including various forms of the flu.  Raised outdoors, they could catch a number of diseases from humans or other animals. However, hogs in modern operations are not exposed to birds or other wildlife.  We also limit the number of people in the buildings and many producers have shower in/shower out procedures for workers entering and leaving the animal housing, to help maintain a more sanitary environment.


Many producers are stepping up their biosecurity procedures to even more carefully monitor animals for signs of the flu, and keeping people with flu-like symptoms out of pork production buildings. 


I am encouraged by market research showing that most Americans believe that the U.S. pork supply is safe.  I’ll continue to do my part to rebuild confidence in our pork supply by making sure my animals are as healthy and well-cared for as possible.


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