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Articles from 2013 In October

Don’t Delay Corn Harvest


While some growers may choose to let corn dry in the field, the longer the corn sits, the greater potential it has for yield loss, according to a field crop expert with Ohio State University's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

In fact, delaying harvest beyond early to mid-November can result in yield losses from stalk lodging, ear drop and ear rot, says Peter Thomison, Ohio State University (OSU) Extension agronomist. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the college.

Letting corn dry in the field exposes the crop to unfavorable weather conditions as well as to wildlife damage, he says. Although delaying harvest has little to no effect on grain quality traits such as oil, protein, starch and kernel breakage, it may result in more moldy grain, Thomison says.

"The potential for bad things happening increases considerably as we delay harvest beyond Nov. 1," he says. "While unfavorable weather might have kept some growers out of their fields, they should harvest as soon as possible.

"If we get into a wet period, a lot of our corn can weather rapidly. The drying benefits we get from delays decrease considerably with very cool temperatures."

As of Oct. 27, 47% of Ohio corn had been harvested, compared to 62% that was harvested at the same time last year, according to the Ohio Agricultural Statistics Service. The five-year average for harvested corn during this period is 47%, the agency says.

Thomison says farmers likely haven't harvested their corn because of unfavorable field conditions or they are waiting for the corn to dry down further.

But according to research he conducted evaluating the state of corn hybrids, the longer corn was left in the field, the more yield loss was experienced, with an average of 11% between mid-November and mid-December.

Thomison's study was conducted at three locations statewide over a three-year period. It looked at the effects of four plant populations, including 24,000, 30,000, 36,000 and 42,000 plants per acre, at three different harvest dates, including early to mid-October, November and December, on the agronomic performance of four hybrids in varying maturity andstalk quality.

The study found that:

* Nearly 90% of the yield loss associated with delayed corn harvest occurred when delays extended beyond mid-November.

* Grain moisture decreased nearly 6% between harvest dates in October and November. But delaying harvest after early to mid-November achieved almost no additional grain drying.

* The greatest increase in stalk rot incidence came between harvest dates in October and November. In contrast, stalk lodging increased the most after early to mid-November.

Some growers have experienced rain delays that have slowed their harvest, while others had planting delays earlier in the season, Thomison says.

"A crop with weak plant integrity is more vulnerable to yield losses from stalk lodging and ear drop when weathering conditions occur," he says. "The widespread root lodging that occurred as a result of wind storms in July is also contributing to plant integrity issues.

"We encourage growers to harvest now to lessen the impact of these weathering problems. A lot of people are letting corn dry in fields as long as it can, but we encourage people to harvest promptly because we typically don't see significant decreases in grain moisture after early to mid-November."

PEDV Control, Elimination Highlight Veterinary Conference

The 2013 Swine Disease Conference for Swine Practitioners on Nov. 14-15 at Iowa State University in Ames will take a comprehensive look at porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus – the current status, control and elimination.

Other program topics include emerging swine pathogens and their control and improvements in diagnostics and risk-based controls useful for on-farm health plan development.

Specific presentations will cover porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, porcine circovirus type 2, viral myelitis, influenza, fall back pigs, grow-finish lameness and pig production from China.

Along with various presentations on PED virus, a panel will provide producer and practitioner perspectives, epidemiologic lessons and regulatory considerations.

For registration call (515) 294-6222 or log onto



Animal Care Panel Responds to Latest Hog Video

video camera

A panel of farm animal care specialists created to analyze undercover video investigations at livestock farms has examined recently released video from a hog farm in Minnesota. The Center for Food Integrity (CFI) created the Animal Care Review Panel to engage recognized animal care specialists to examine video and provide expert perspectives for food retailers, the pork industry and the media.

The panel that examined the recent video that was captured and posted online by the group Mercy for Animals was comprised of Janice Swanson, Michigan State University; Candace Croney, Purdue University; and John Deen, DVM, University of Minnesota.

“There are far too many issues seen in this video, including the behaviors and attitudes of the caretakers, that are definitely not reflective of standard industry practice and that are just wrong,” Croney said.

“Employees seen in the video show high levels of frustration, impatience and attitudes reflecting either improper training in low-stress animal handling or a lack of reinforcing the expectation for the best practice of low-stress handling,” Swanson said.

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“The procedures seen in this video, for the most part, were within the allowances established by the American Veterinary Medical Association and other groups,” Deen said. “What it comes down to is employee behavior, and that was problematic.”

Animal Handling

The video contains numerous scenes in which farm workers are seen tossing piglets through the air as they are moved from pen to pen. An employee is heard being asked by the undercover investigator if this practice is appropriate. The employee responds that it’s “not OK” but it’s common.

“The employee admits on camera that what he is doing is not correct – so the employee actually acknowledges he is not conducting proper handling,” Swanson said. “This leads one to believe training had taken place and the employee chose not to follow procedure and policy.”

Another segment shows an employee slamming an animal over the back with a device called a “sorting board or panel” which is used to help move animals through alleyways.

“That should never happen,” Croney said. “You can break the animal’s back. That’s egregious abuse in my opinion.”

In another scene, a number of piglets are seen in a wheeled tub, presumably to be moved to another area of the farm. While it’s common to move animals this way, the experts felt the animals were clearly overcrowded in this instance.

Facilities and Conditions

“The gestation stalls appear to be too small for some sows shown lying down,” Swanson said. “There also appear to be sources of piglet entrapment with respect to the flooring, stalls and other areas.”

“There’s one scene in which a piglet has its head caught in a floor slat,” Deen said. “Things can break and those things need to be fixed. It’s impossible to know from this video if the problem had just recently developed or if it had been that way for a long time.”

In another scene, a large number of young pigs are seen crowded into a single pen. The experts say it’s probable that the pigs were being held this way temporarily as they waited to be transported to another location.

“Even if it’s temporary, it’s not OK,” Croney said. “You should not have that many pigs being held together like that in such a tight space. It’s impossible to practice low-stress handling and safe movement with that type of density. The animals are at risk of harming each other due to piling up or riding on top of each other in their efforts to move away.”

Another scene shows flies on the backs of sows as they stand in their stalls.

“Fly populations are endemic to barns and require control measures,” Swanson said.

“I didn’t think the number of flies seen in the video was an unacceptable situation,” Deen said. “It was July, after all, and it would require heavy use of insecticide to bring the level much lower.”

Another scene shows what appears to be an employee picking up a mass of maggots with a gloved hand.

“It’s difficult to determine the source of the maggot infestation in the video,” Swanson said. “If it’s from a dead piglet then it is an indicator that piglet mortality is not being adequately monitored and the dead pigs are not being removed frequently enough.”

“There are flies on farms and where there are flies there has to be maggots,” Deen said. “I didn’t see anything related to flies that would affect the welfare of the pigs on this farm.”

Deen felt a point of clarification was needed on the video’s depiction of sow gestation stalls.

“It is stated that stalls have been banned in a number of states and in the European Union,” Deen said. “In most instances, stalls haven’t actually been banned but their use is being reduced. Housing a sow in a gestation stall protects it during the early stage of the animals’ pregnancy and can also be used to protect sows that cannot compete in a group.”


Employees are seen euthanizing young pigs using a method called “blunt force trauma.” It involves slamming an animal’s head against a concrete floor.

“It’s uncomfortable to watch,” Deen said. “Discussions are taking place on whether this should be an acceptable practice, not because of its efficacy, but because of its visual impact.”

“While I agree that blunt force trauma is brutal to watch, despite being effective if done correctly,” added Croney, “what is even more problematic than how it looks is the capacity for suffering by the animals if done improperly and the psychological risks to employees of being required to use this method. It is paradoxical to ask employees to provide compassionate care and also to kill, especially in such a fashion. Worse, when employees show the types of abusive attitudes evident in this video, the concern that is raised is whether doing this type of procedure worsens indifference to animals. This issue deserves more attention.”

The video claims some pigs appear to still be alive after blunt force trauma was administered, but the experts say it is likely involuntary movement.

“Piglets appear to be rendered irreversibly unconscious,” Swanson said. “Severe brain trauma, which this method induces, will cause the nervous system to react as death occurs. Although the procedure is conditionally acceptable, a concern is the ability of a caretaker to perform the procedure repeatedly and each time render the piglet unconscious instantly with no chance of suffering. ”

“The problem on this farm appears not to be how euthanasia is being carried out but the lack of timely euthanasia,” Deen said. “Pigs were seen in this video that should have already been euthanized. There are situations where pigs have irreversible health issues and euthanasia is the humane thing to do.”

The castration and tail docking seen in the video appear to be done using acceptable methods, according to Deen, who also spoke about scenes showing pigs with wounds and lesions.

“Wounds like these do occur on farms,” Deen said. “We can’t tell from the video whether these are isolated cases or if it’s widespread. We also can’t tell whether they have been treated with an analgesic, but that would be the appropriate thing to do.”

Employee Attitude and Knowledge

“There was unacceptable handling of animals seen in this video,” Deen said. “It appears to me this farm is struggling with creating an environment that allows workers to discipline each other and to create an expectation of better animal handling.”

“There seems to be a major lack of recognition that these are sentient animals that can suffer,” Croney added. “It’s not enough to train caretakers to just be animal technicians. They must have a level of compassion and understanding that what they do to animals matters to them and it should matter to us.”

Hidden camera investigations at livestock farms have heightened public attention on animal care issues. In an effort to foster a more balanced conversation and to provide credible feedback to promote continuous improvement in farm animal care, CFI created the Animal Care Review Panel.

The panel operates independently. Its reviews, assessments, recommendations and reports will not be submitted to the pork industry for review or approval. CFI’s only role is to facilitate the review process and release the panel’s findings.



Midwest Pork Conference Slated for Dec. 3


Indiana Pork will host the Midwest Pork Conference (MPC) on Dec. 3, 2013 at the Hendricks County Conference Complex in Danville, IN. The MPC brings more than 300 independent pork producers, farm managers, contract growers and allied industry leaders to this one-day educational and networking event.

The MPC, held from 8:15 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. eastern standard time, includes nine educational sessions discussing topics such as benchmarking, succession planning, swine health and economics. The featured keynote speaker is Orion Samuelson, host of This Week in Agribusiness. The event also includes a trade show and multiple opportunities to network throughout the day. A PQA Plus training is being offered immediately following conclusion of the event.

The cost to attend is $60 for the first registrant from a farm or company and $40 for each registrant thereafter from the same farm or company. After Nov. 8, the cost increases to $80 and $60, respectively. Various sponsor and exhibitor opportunities are also available. To view a full agenda and register, visit or contact Indiana Pork at (317) 872-7500.

Indiana Pork is a not-for-profit association representing Indiana's 3,000 family pork farmers through the pork checkoff program.  Learn more at   


Educators in Nebraska Learn the Farm to Fork Link


This past summer nearly 40 Nebraska educators and school counselors learned firsthand about agriculture, including the pork industry, when they took part in the first-ever Nebraska Food Project.

The weeklong educational and professional development experience was designed for high school agriculture science teachers, middle- and high-school family and consumer science teachers and school and career counselors at all levels.

“The Nebraska Food Project evolved from conversations with students in both urban and rural classrooms where it became apparent that there was a significant disconnect in their understanding of where their food comes from,” said Carol Ringenberg, director of health sciences and human sciences and education/family and consumer with the Nebraska Department of Education.

The Nebraska Food Project, funded in part by the Pork Checkoff, was designed to help bridge this gap, with the interactive tour increasing educators’ awareness of Nebraska’s food industry. Participants explored career opportunities in food production and learned about how food production can impact hunger, food costs, consumer rights and natural resources.

“The Nebraska Food Project is designed to deepen educators’ and students’ knowledge and appreciation of the level of expertise demonstrated by those involved in agriculture, as well as agriculture’s role in providing economic vitality in the state,” said Larry Sitzman, executive director of the Nebraska Pork Producers Association.

Serving up Food for Thought
This experience provided teachers and school counselors with knowledge and skills to help students differentiate between factual and non-factual information about food. “It also helped them make informed decisions about their personal food choices,” said Kyla Wize, youth education director with the Nebraska Pork Producers Association.

Participation also helps educators develop classroom resources, such as lesson plans and learning activities that can be used in schools to promote further understanding of human food production, nutrition and careers.

“The National Food Project provided a platform to build trust between teachers and partners that will yield opportunities to collaborate in the future,” Wize said.

Pork-related tours included:
•Central Plains Milling of Howells, where participants learned about feed for swine, cattle and poultry.

•Blue River Pork of McCool Junction, where participants learned about how pigs grow and how farmers care for the pigs from birth to market weight.

•Farmland Foods of Crete, which included a tour of the plant from harvest to packaging.

The Nebraska Food Project's pork-related seminars included:
•An overview of pigs and pork in Nebraska presented by Jane Stone and Larry Sitzman, Nebraska Pork Producers Association.

•An overview of housing and equipment used in the pork industry presented by Gary McDuffee, Hog Slat.

•An introduction to animal well-being and transportation presented by Jim Fiala, Hormel Foods Corp.

•An overview of swine genetics presented by Tom Rathje, DNA Genetics (formerly Danbred North America).

•An overview of farming and finances presented by Dick Zach, Farm Credit Services of America.

Learn more
To learn more about the Nebraska Food Project and other educational efforts for youth in Nebraska, please contact Kyla Wize, youth education director with the Nebraska Pork Producers Association at



NPPC Responds to Latest Undercover Hog Farm Video

NPPC Responds to Latest Undercover Hog Farm Video

“A questionable undercover video from a Minnesota farm released today by Mercy for Animals (MFA), a front group for the Humane Society of the United States, is the latest attack against America’s hog farmers,” says the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC).

Prior to an anticipated press conference that is expected to be full of misinformation, here are some important facts from the NPPC:

An independent veterinarian, who was taken by law enforcement officials to the Pipestone (MN) facility shown in the video, determined that there were no signs of inhumane treatment or violations of good production standards. Therefore, no charges were filed.

But NPPC reports that wasn’t good enough for this Pipestone farm. Its care for animals is so firmly rooted in its commitment to industry best practices that it did something consistent with its proactive approach to continuous improvement – it brought in a third party to investigate.

Though the MFA-produced undercover video was unfortunately never made available to Pipestone, the farm’s investigation determined that the employee involved had not been following animal care protocols, and he was immediately fired.

America’s pork producers are primarily family farmers who care about the animals they raise and the food they produce for the American consumer. It is the same food they produce for their own families. They don’t need questionable undercover videos produced by organizations with political agendas to remind them of their commitment to animal care, NPPC says.

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American farmers have the trust of the American people and don’t deserve the onslaught they face from groups such as the Humane Society of the United States that have deep pockets from deceptive fundraising practices.

This latest attack by HSUS and MFA clearly is the result of the pressure they’re feeling after a year of significant state and federal legislative losses. HSUS has spent significant amounts of its donors’ money on futile legislative efforts and on a lawsuit that had nothing to do with animal welfare that was dismissed by a U.S. District Court judge. HSUS donors, especially the many whose priorities are the protection of companion animals, deserve better than that.

NPPC is the global voice for the U.S. pork industry, protecting the livelihoods of America’s 67,000 pork producers, who abide by ethical principles in caring for their animals, in protecting the environment and public health and in providing safe, wholesome, nutritious pork products to consumers worldwide. For more information, visit

You might also like:

Animal Care Panel Responds to Latest Hog Video

What is the Pipestone System 

PEDV Outbreaks are not Linked to Low Slaughter Levels



Humans Still Cause the Most Antibiotic Resistance


I was out of the country when CDC (Centers for Disease Control) released their new report on Antibiotic Resistance Threats for 2013, so it has taken me some time to read through and interpret the report. When reading, I asked myself (and will try to answer for you), “What did CDC say about the risk of on-farm antibiotic use?” The short answer is, NOT MUCH.

The majority of the report was on the main cause of antibiotic resistance in humans, which is antibiotic use in humans. Although people love to talk about how many tons of antibiotics are used in food animals, HUMAN use is still the main cause of antibiotic resistance. On that note, my favorite part of the report gives an important lesson and guiding principle for both human AND animal antibiotic use: “SIMPLY USING ANTIBIOTICS CREATES RESISTANCE.” This point is absolutely accurate and compelling. For this reason, agriculture and veterinary medicine do not support the misuse, overuse, or excess use of this valuable resource. Therefore, antibiotics for growth promotion are being phased out of livestock production.

However, I and the science of risk assessment, may disagree with CDC about the relative impact that food animal antibiotic use has on human risk. I say may disagree, as they don’t really say specifically how much of the problem is due to agriculture.  

The reasons I am confident the agricultural contribution is low are based on multiple peer-reviewed scientific articles where the risk was quantitatively estimated. (Boy that is a mouth-full, but see the previous blog.)

Regardless of who is responsible, I’ll be the first to admit that there is a problem with resistance. But it is not a new problem. Resistance has been a problem since the first teenager disagreed with her parent and since the first antibiotic was used. This is because antibiotic resistance is a natural phenomenon. Resistant bacteria have been found in places untouched by man.

To reduce agriculture’s contribution to the problem, veterinarians and farmers use only FDA approved products, are increasing veterinary oversight and are implementing aggressive quality assurance programs.

This blog was posted by Scott Hurd, DVM, Iowa State University. Read the full report at:


Hundreds of Groups Urge Passage of Farm Bill

More than 250 organizations, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, sent a letter today to House and Senate agriculture committee members and leadership advocating passage of a five-year farm bill as soon as possible.  The groups are urging Congress to move forward on a unified farm bill that preserves a five-year authorization for all programs, while continuing the partnership between the nutrition and farm communities.  

In the letter, the groups cautioned against ending provisions that would reinstate permanent farm law from last century. “For decades, the threat of reinstatement of the long-outdated policies of the 1938 and 1949 acts have served as strong motivation for Congress to enact new farm bills,” the letter said.  “Repealing those acts and making the 2013 farm bill commodity title permanent law could make it difficult to generate sufficient political pressure to adjust the commodity safety net provisions should conditions in production agriculture change.”

The groups said they are also concerned that if Title I of the 2013 farm bill is made permanent, other important farm and rural programs covered in other titles would risk not being reauthorized if the bill expires after five years. 

“If this should occur and we revert to permanent law, then programs covering conservation, forestry, research, energy, rural development, horticulture, trade, etc., could be left to the will of the appropriations process, likely with limited funding and little opportunity to update or adjust to meet changing needs in agriculture and rural communities,” the letter said.

“We also fear that a farm bill without a meaningful nutrition title will make it difficult, if not impossible, for the House and Senate to reach a bipartisan agreement on a final version that can be signed by the president,” the letter said. 

The letter was sent by organizations representing farmers and ranchers, conservation, rural development, finance, forestry, energy, trade and crop insurance companies.

“This important legislation supports our nation’s farmers, ranchers, forest owners, food security, natural resources and wildlife habitats, rural communities and the 16 million Americans whose jobs directly depend on the agriculture industry,” the letter said.


Feitsma Joins Minnesota Swine Reproduction Center Team


The Minnesota Swine Reproduction Center (MSRC) has added an international swine reproductive specialist to its team of consultants. Hanneke Feitsma, DVM, has relocated to the United States from The Netherlands and brings with her a wealth of expertise in swine fertility and artificial insemination.

“Dr. Feitsma is a world renown swine reproductive expert and has a depth of practical and research experience that will not only benefit our clients, but the U.S. pork industry as a whole,” says Neil DeBuse, DVM, president of MSRC. “She successfully transfers scientific results into real-world applications. Advancing producer efficiency through new reproduction techniques is the core of our business.”

Feitsma started working in swine artificial insemination (AI) in 1988 as the director of production for Varkens KI Noord Brabant B.V. in The Netherlands. In 1999, she moved to research and development at the TOPIGS Research Center IPG, in Beuningen, The Netherlands. Feitsma and her team were able to increase AI semen production from 1,000 doses to 3,500 doses per boar per year by reducing the sperm numbers in a dose of semen. This required the gradual reduction from 4.0 billion cells down to 1.2 billion motile cells, while maintaining fertility rates.

Over the years, Feitsma helped establish standard operating procedures for best practices in swine AI in The Netherlands, the United Kingdom and in boar studs of affiliated companies across the globe. To achieve this level of production quality, she introduced hygiene programs and implemented computer-assisted semen analysis in all Dutch boar studs. This enabled the Dutch AI industry to reduce the number of cells per semen dose but still ensure superior quality. Most recently, she has studied the prospects and procedures associated with post-cervical AI in swine herds.

“The U.S. pork industry is an innovative and dynamic production sector,” Feitsma says. “I am looking forward to working with producers and specialists, and to share ideas and information that will ensure continued advancements in the years ahead.”

Feitsma will be based in the MSRC office in Northfield, MN. 

About Minnesota Swine Reproduction Center, LLC. -- MSRC is a swine-specific veterinary consulting firm based in Northfield, MN, that provides solutions for specific health, production and reproduction issues affecting farms that produce pork. MSRC and its team of production specialists, including Gary Swanson and Don Jackson have been leading implementers of post-cervical artificial insemination in the United States.  Long-term, sustainable results are based on swine health and production principles. For more about MSRC, go to



PEDV Outbreaks Are Not Linked to Low Slaughter Levels

PEDV Outbreaks Are Not Linked to Low Slaughter Levels

Two issues are dominating the news in the pork industry this week:  the spread of porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus and the low levels of hog slaughter since Sept. 1.

The key to realize about these two issues is that at present they are not related.   The timing simply does not match.  The earliest known case of PED virus in the United States was April 15. There are a number of producers and packer employees who are claiming that PED virus was in the United States and active in many herds well before April 15, and is thus responsible for the current short hog numbers.

I do not know where those conclusions are coming from. But I know from a number of legitimate, knowledgeable sources in the veterinary medicine community that the diagnostic labs went back and retested samples dating back to last fall (November, I believe) and found no PED virus-positive samples before that April 15 case.  There may be black helicopters, the lunar landings may indeed have been faked and the Tri-Partite Commission may actually run the world, but I do not believe that PED virus was active in the United States before April 15. The scientific evidence simply does not support any other conclusion.  And ours is an industry based on science, correct?

But PED virus is spreading and impacting more and more sows.  North Carolina continues to see more cases – about 100 for the five weeks that ended Oct. 13.  News circulated last week of some breaks at several large sow farms in Iowa.

Futures markets have been sharply higher since last Wednesday as piglet losses mount.  I still do not expect to see any PED virus-driven supply reductions until December since losses did not become significant until July.  But the losses in North Carolina beginning in September and now those in Iowa will begin impacting numbers even more in March and beyond. 


Explaining the Slaughter Shortfall

So what is causing the current shortfall in numbers?  Before we answer that, let’s consider the magnitude of the shortfall.  Figure 1 shows weekly federally-inspected slaughter.  The red line is my forecast of weekly slaughter numbers based on the September Hogs and Pigs report.  Note that it is far below the level of last year, something we all expected.  But actual slaughter (the green line) is far lower than even those forecasts.  In fact, slaughter since Sept. 1has been 6.2% lower than last year and 2.9% lower than the forecast levels.  That 2.9% is 520,000 fewer hogs than I had expected.

weekly hog slaughter

Why is this happening?  My original idea was that hot weather in August and stretching a very short corn crop over 14 months (the normal 12 plus one month due to last year’s early harvest and one month due to this year’s late harvest) had caused hogs to slow down and thus reduce slaughter.  And weights from mid-July forward (see Figure 2) bear that out.  They didn’t go down but they didn’t go up as they normally do.  See the black dashed line in Figure 2.  It is the average for the past five years – what I would say is probably normal.  

slaughter weights

But look at what has happened since USDA market reporters returned to work!  The first of those two observations represents just one day but last week’s observation is for a whole week.  The 208.8 for both of those periods represents a return to rapid growth rates as cool weather and fresh corn work their magic.

So will more hogs come to town soon?  Likely – when prices begin to fall.  Why get in a hurry now if one earns 90 cents per pound – and maybe more – for another week’s growth?  But if price begin to fall, I suspect slaughter will rise.

I’m not completely confident that my hypothesis will be correct since the magnitude of the shortfalls is so large.    But I still think it is the most plausible explanation other than “The USDA missed it.”  Both are likely true to some degree.  The more legitimate of the two will be determined by hog numbers over the next few weeks. 

Miss a Golden Opportunity?

My growing fear is that the U.S. pork industry is going to miss a golden strategic opportunity.  It had appeared that pork would have a definite price advantage on beef.  In addition, pork cooked to 145 degrees with a three- minute rest could compete favorably against steaks and other products.  But will all of this negate that opportunity by driving hog and pork prices higher?  It will to some degree.  The question is how much and, again, we won’t know that for a while.

north american pork industry data

competing meats