The majority of the tens of thousands of pigs that escaped slaughter over the last two weeks likely remain on farms, but some producers in hard-hit areas have begun culling. Dermot Hayes, an agricultural economist at Iowa State University, suspects the depopulation has been modest. But if plants continue to close, he adds, “this could be a real issue.” How would we know if the situation worsened, since pig farmers generally don’t discuss such matters? “We’d see a rebound in futures prices.”
In a May 19 Christian Science Monitor story, "Where’s the beef? Pandemic exposes cracks in US food system."
That created not only a shortage of meat throughout the country, but what Professor Hayes describes as an “elevator effect” for hogs coming through the system. With farmers unable to ship their fully grown pigs to the processors, there was no room in their barns for the piglets that they had already contracted months ago to purchase.
In a May 19 Fox News story, "Millions of hogs could be euthanized as coronavirus hurts supply chain, industry warns."
“The last time we had plant capacity issues was in 1998,” Iowa State University economist Dr. Dermot Hayes said. “The [U.S. Department of Agriculture] acted too slowly and with too little money and we lost an entire generation of hog producers.”
In a May 20 Muscatine Journal story, "Farmers remain optimistic as planting season winds down."
“There is one opportunity for hope, and that is if China actually buys what they promised to buy, prices would recover,” Hayes said last week. “Remember the duties we put on China that started the trade war, the metal duties? We still have those on, and they still have duties on our products. Yet the only hope is for China to buy more of our stuff,” Hayes said.