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Deadly virus causes turmoil in US pork industry

March 10, 2014
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The U.S. pork industry is facing a serious challenge in the shape of a deadly virus that has been killing pigs by the millions, pushing pork prices up and threatening supplies, the Wall Street Journal has reported.

The porcine diarrhea virus was first discovered in April 2013 and since then has spread to 25 states. The death toll is in the millions but the virus poses no risk to humans or to food safety and only affects young pigs.

Nevertheless, the industry has been put in a very difficult situation that could have a ripple effect on the entire supply chain, the news service explained. Farmers have raised prices, putting pressure on profit margins for processors and meatpackers, which in turn is expected to lead to a surge in prices for end consumers in the months to come.

RELATED: US pork, beef exports on the rise

Meanwhile, ahead of the traditional increase in demand for hot dogs and brats in the summer, lean-hog futures have been pushed to record levels. Hog futures are already up 30 percent this year, meaning that hogs are among the fastest-rising commodities in the United States.

But some industry analysts think this might be an overreaction and that the impact of the virus may be overestimated. Federal data shows that the number of pigs slaughtered weekly does not differ significantly from last year's total, the Wall Street Journal said.

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