US farmers killing healthy pigs after coronavirus pandemic creates meatpacking backlog

‘We got keep our heads up and try to be resourceful’

James Crump@thejamescrump
Friday 01 May 2020 19:20
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A pig farm in Iowa
A pig farm in Iowa

Farmers in the US are being forced to euthanise hundreds of thousands of healthy pigs, as pork production plants have been temporarily closed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Officials estimate that 700,000 pigs are being euthanised every day in the US, as the pork industry doesn’t leave room for a long-term delay in production.

Don Meyer, a farmer in Iowa, told the Associated Press that he has already killed piglets to help reduce his herd size.

He added that the task is awful, but necessary to help keep stock levels manageable.

“Believe me, we’re double-stocking barns. We’re putting pigs in pens that we never had pigs in before just trying to hold them,” he said.

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“We’re feeding them diets that have low energy just to try to stall their growth and just to maintain,” he added.

Mr Meyer said that killing a healthy animal is a difficult decision for any farmer.

“It is a tough one,” he said. “We got keep our heads up and try to be resourceful and if we can make it through this cloud, I think there will be good opportunities if we’re left standing yet.”

To help ease the struggle, president Donald Trump, used the Defence Production act earlier this week, to order production plants to stay open, by labelling them an essential service.

However, Howard Roth, the president of the National Pork Producers Council, said that production plants will struggle to get back to full capacity, and added that farmers will need financial support to survive the crisis.

“We are going to need indemnity money for these farmers,” he said. “This situation is unprecedented.”

In April, Mr Roth, said in a statement that hog farmers are being disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

“Hogs are backing up on farms with nowhere to go, leaving farmers with tragic choices to make,” he said.

“Dairy producers can dump milk. Fruit and vegetable growers can dump produce. But, hog farmers have nowhere to move their hogs.”

Mr Roth told Business Insider that farmers are going to have to start euthanising​ the pigs, unless there is “significant government intervention,” to help the farms.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.

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