A deadly pig-killing virus called porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, or PED, that has spread to farms in 22 states may have come from China, where an almost identical virus rampaged through the Chinese hog market in 2012.
The virus arrived in the U.S. in April and thousands of piglets have died.
Last September, the world’s largest pork producer, Smithfield Foods, whose brands include Armour and Farmland with annual sales of $13 billion, was sold to Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd., the largest shareholder of China’s biggest meat processor. The $7.1 billion deal was the largest takeover of a U.S. company by a Chinese firm.
As the virus has slaughtered pigs in the U.S., prices in the $9 billion hog-futures market have zoomed up. Lean-hog futures are the highest they have been in almost two months. Smithfield Foods Inc. and other pork producers estimate that roughly 10% of U.S. sows have been infected. Smithfield added that there could be a loss to U.S. pig production of 3% of the industry’s total.
Mike Brandherm, a general manager with Hitch Pork Producers, a Guymon, Oklahoma, livestock producer that lost 30,000 piglets in six weeks, said, “This is the toughest disease we’ve ever gone through. It was stunning how fast the disease spread. You feel helpless.”