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Young pigs around a feeder inside a barn National Pork Board

Relativity in the numbers

Sheer numbers of the Chinese hog herd, pre- and post-ASF, are unfathomable.

I've never been able to get my head around really large numbers, such as when talking of what top professional athletes and celebrities make for playing games or singing songs.

I do not begrudge Lionel Messi for making $127 million playing soccer, or Taylor Swift for making $185 million for using her vocal chords to entertain endearing crowds. They are both taking full advantage of the talents that God has given them to make a very comfortable living for themselves, and their children, and their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren, and their …. Well, you get the point.

Don't get me wrong, I am not jealous (OK, maybe a little), because my wife and I make a decent living, but our children will have to fend for themselves (sorry kids). I just cannot fathom that amount of money that today's celebrities bring in.

Same goes for when we discuss any numbers surrounding China. I remember decades ago in my previous news gathering life, the United States was trying to increase exports, and China was seen as a growth market, much as it is today. Back then there was talk of the hopes of increasing ag exports to reach a minuscule percentage of the Chinese populace. A minuscule percentage increase of 1.25 billion consumers would be real nice padding to the U.S. wallet.

Now, for the last year or so we have watched from afar as the Chinese hog herd is being decimated by African swine fever. The sheer numbers of the Chinese herd are daunting. Estimates are that 40 to 55% of the Chinese hog herd has either been culled or died from ASF. Those numbers are large percentages, but that becomes even larger when you align numbers of animals to those percentages.

Just throwing out general numbers: the Chinese had 400 million hogs, then ASF took 40 to 55%. According to the USDA, as of Sept. 1, there were 77.7 million hogs and pigs on U.S. farms. ASF has diminished the Chinese swine herd by the entire U.S. hog herd and then some.

I can't even fathom those kinds of numbers. The Chinese hog herd versus the U.S. swine herd is like the Swift household compared to the Schulz household. I've never hung out with Taylor Swift, and I imagine she feels that she has a pretty nice lifestyle, but I'm happy with mine.

Same goes for the Chinese swine herd. I've never been to China, not sure if I ever will go, or at least not until this whole ASF thing dies down, which could be quite some time. For the time being, I am content with the "little" U.S. pork industry to keep plugging along just fine, producing the safest, most-nutritious pork product in the world. A pork product that can help feed the Chinese who are getting hungry for good pork.

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