Study Reveals How Pork Processors Are Fighting Through Pandemic

by Victoria Santiago

Pork production saw a decline due to the pandemic. The USDA Economic Research Service has put out a new study on how pork production has changed in the different regions of the U.S. Some areas were affected more than others. Some areas came back strong while others didn’t, or took longer to. The study used stats from 2019 to compare.

New York and New Jersey had the biggest decrease percentage-wise. Major pork-producing states faired differently. Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin had a three-week decline in pork production at the end of April. Overall, 2020 numbers ended up topping 2019 numbers. Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska also had declines in output. Those states have the largest amount of pork production. Their output numbers were pretty much back to normal by June.

In addition to declines in major pork states, other states saw increases in their production levels. Arizona, California, Hawaii, and Nevada are all states with little pork production. In 2020, there was a 14% uptick in hog slaughter in these states. The USDA study suggests that the pandemic gave these states room to grow.

Overall, the USDA states that “Regions with large pork processing plants recovered in a couple of months and slaughter rates steadily increased. Other regions with smaller plants did not recover faster than major processing regions, revealing that plant size might not be the only characteristic influencing resiliency.”

With our established pork industry recovering, maybe we will begin to see growth in other states as well.

Pork Shortage Causes Inflation Earlier This Year

Consumer prices for pork rose this summer by more than they have in the last 25 years. The hog shortage mentioned above is partly to blame, as is a rise in barbecuing. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics noted a 3.8% increase in pork products. This increase, along with an increase in beef prices, contributed to an overall price surge in the U.S. In fact, it was the biggest price surge we’ve had since 2008. Prices rose across the globe, though, not just in the U.S. Over the summer, the United Nations stated that worldwide food prices had the highest monthly increase in over a decade.

This is due to a number of things. There have been multiple droughts, which in turn raised the prices for animal feed. The coronavirus has impacted food prices, too. People began eating at home more, even though many food production and processing plants were closed down. Businesses paid more wholesale and we ended up with a price surge. This surge in prices happened over the summer, so prices have since cooled down a bit, along with the weather. Hopefully, things will continue to level out as we enter into the new year.