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A Short-Term Solution for Deadly Pig Virus: Raise Fatter Hogs

A Short-Term Solution for Deadly Pig Virus: Raise Fatter Hogs
Photograph by Elyse Butler/Getty Images

Around 7 million pigs have died over the past year in the U.S. from porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, a disease that does exactly what its name suggests, leading to leaner pork supplies. But Americans haven’t lost their appetite for ribs and bacon, so farmers have been compensating for the reduced headcount by raising larger animals.

In an earnings call Monday, Tyson Foods Chief Executive Donald Smith projected industrywide pork production to drop as much as 4 percent for the year. Still, it wasn’t all bad news: “[H]eavier weights partially offsets fewer heads, and we were able to make up some by improving yields.” Some farmers are holding their pigs back from slaughter for a week or two longer than usual, resulting in weights that are 3 percent to 4 percent higher than a year ago, Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson said in an e-mail.