Four risks to U.S. pork business

Meyer says industry needs to create value in order to get hog prices up, keep hog prices high.

Ann Hess, Content Director

June 10, 2024

3 Min Read
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One of the points Steve Meyer, lead economist, Ever.Ag, has made over the years, and one that the U.S. pork industry cannot lose sight of, is the No. 1 point of risk is still foreign animal diseases.

“If there's anything that can ruin this thing faster than that, I don’t know what it is, and so we need to always be wary of that fact and take all the steps that we need to do to A.) prevent and B.) have a  system in place to handle it when it gets here,” Meyer says.

The U.S. pork industry is expected to export around 27% of its production this year, which is record high, Meyer notes. “If the doors close on those exports, it's going to be really ugly, really fast. And that doesn't even count the operational issues of what happens when you can't move pigs for 72 hours or three months or whatever.”

Meyer says the second risk to U.S. pork business is the cost of production. “We shifted the paradigm in the early 2000s on the cost of production and we've done it again now,” Meyer says.

Even with good crops in North America and South America, Meyer says the industry needs to cover the increased cost of corn, soybean and soybean meal production, as well as all of the other fixed costs that are now higher.

“I don't know exactly how we're going to build new buildings right now with the cost of our buildings, and at some point we do have to replace major infrastructure,” Meyer says. “And so, the cost paradigm is here and we can hope all we want to that it's going to get better. But I don't think it is, I think it's just going to stay there.”

Instead, Meyer says the industry needs to create value in order to get hog prices up and keep hog prices high.

While the export market is crucial to U.S. pork business, Meyer says he is more concerned about the demographics of domestic demand.

“The eating habits of young people are not going in our favor and we're going to really have to make some efforts to reach out and carve out a place in the diets of some of the younger generations here, for meat in general and pork in particular,” Meyer says. “I think that's going to take a huge amount of effort. I don't think we can do that just on promotions alone. I think we have to really go back to our P’s and Q’s about product design, and product characteristics and those kinds of things.”

At some point Meyer says the industry also needs to get to a position where it can observe and measure muscle quality at a speed and in a place to tie that animal back to a farm.

Finally, Meyer says he is concerned about EU policies and regulations creeping across the Atlantic.  

“I don't know that we can stop that, but what's going on in Europe is pretty ugly and their pork industry is going to pay a huge price for it, already has. They reduced their output by about a quarter of our production over the last four years,” Meyer says. “Can we bring sanity to what's going on in Europe as it travels across the Atlantic? I think that's one of the things. Can you prevent it? I don't think you can prevent it, and I think we have to try to bring sanity to it and kind of keep in perspective the needs for things like nitrogen fertilizers to feed the world.”

About the Author(s)

Ann Hess

Content Director, National Hog Farmer

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