HOME > Chowhound > Food Media & News >


Potential effect of swine flu on pork prices?

So far this thing doesn't seem to be the deadly pandemic people might fear but already I've read some foreign countries are halting the import of pork from the US and Mexico.
Any thoughts as to whether we'll have a glut of pork products here in the states? I'm ready to stock up if there is.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Russia is banning the import of pork from the some US States, Mexico and a bunch of Latin American countries.
    The link is in Russian and you may not want to go there anyway....

    The media is making a major deal out of this. It may or may not be justified, but it keeps their rating up.
    We can say that it's better to be safe than sorry, but they do spread a certain amount of fear with the 24/7 reports about anybody who sneezes, feels bad, or has recently been to Mexico.

    Because the virus is called "swine flu," there are going to be a LOT of people who are going to make the assumption that it has something to do with pigs and pork, even though you can't get it from eating pork.
    Yes, humans can get it from contact with pigs but that's rare for the vast majority of us.
    That distinction will get totally lost in the media coverage and it is likely that a substantial number of people will avoid pork.
    That will suppress demand, perhaps driving prices down for a time.
    Farmers will stop raising hogs for market when prices become too low to be profitable.
    Then the price will increase due to a lack of supply.
    The same cycle has happened with other scares in the past.

    1. If this virus is airborne them I'm a lot more concerned with produce from Mexico than pork. I guess I better fill my freezer with pork butts for my summer BBQ now.

      8 Replies
      1. re: Fritter

        It's primarily spread through person-to-person contact like any other respiratory virus.
        If it is on any produce from Mexico, it will be just as likely to be on other produce which has been handled by the same people who have handled the Mexican produce, or in the people who are shopping alongside you in stores.
        Or on magazines at the checkout, packages of anything else in the store, the front doors to stores, restaurants, and office buildings, the seats in the movie theater, etc.


        If will take a few weeks for pork prices to decline. The pork currently in the supply chain has to work through the retail market. Those prices are already set.

        1. re: MakingSense

          "It's primarily spread through person-to-person contact like any other respiratory virus"

          The word "primarily in that sentence is the caveat. The theory at the moment is that the virus has become airborne so I agree with the rest of your post. The CDC page is now "dated" .
          I think it's more than fair to say if the source of the out break is in Mexico which appears to be the case at this time then avoiding products from there will be a far more likely first scenario for many than not shopping for groceries.

          1. re: Fritter

            "Primarily" means that there may be additional methods of transmission, however rare.
            "Airborne" does not mean that it floats somehow by its own power from a Mexican green pepper to you.
            You are at risk in the same manner that you are at risk during cold and flu season at any other time so you should take the same precautions.

            If you touch an organic green pepper at a farmers' market near you that has been touched by someone who has contracted swine flu, you can catch it more easily than if you touched a Mexican green pepper in a standard store that had been handled by a field worker who did not live in one of the cities in Mexico where the virus is active.
            Other shoppers in stores are touching the same things that you touch, including the Mexican green peppers and the things that you ultimately purchase.
            You have to live your life. Or hide under your bed with a half-gallon of Purell.

            The CDC page was last updated as of last Friday. Today is Monday.
            It is epidemiological information specific to swine flu that will not "mutate" in three days or three weeks.

            1. re: MakingSense

              "Primarily" means that there may be additional methods of transmission"

              Ahhmm yeah, I'm pretty sure I under stood that.
              Maybe you missed it but I agreed with you on the rest.
              The CDC web page was updated last Friday. Today is Monday. How many deaths are being reported in Mexico today Vs Friday? On Friday no one was talking about it being airborne (human-human) or possible contraction from handling raw pork (although the CDC currently denies that as a possability).
              BTW There was a case last year of swine flue where the individuals that contracted it had no traditional exposure. Your theory of mutation in three days is flawed and seemingly ill-informed.
              Just as an aside do you go out of your way to pick an inane debate on every thread you post in?

              1. re: Fritter

                The Center for Disease Control deals with fact.
                Not what is "being reported in Mexico" by journalists or even their medical system, if the CDC has been unable to verify that information independently. (The Mexican government issued a statement that many of the deaths were due to secondary lung infections in people who did not seek treatment for the primary swine flu virus, a situation very different from what is occurring in the US.)
                People may be "talking about it being airborne" or "contraction from handling raw pork" but without reasonable scientific data to verify that these transmission modes are possible, it would be irresponsible of the CDC to alter their assessment of the facts. Doing so might create unnecessary panic.
                CDC may still not know what caused the one case last year that did not conform to the traditional exposure modality.
                They deal only in what they know, not in chatter or supposition.
                Those facts do not change or mutate in a few days. They require the collection and analysis of large amounts of data which takes time and care.

                This is not "flawed," "ill-informed," or "inane." It's sound science and good public policy.
                Reasonable care should be taken in view of the situation in certain sections of Mexico, but panic is not an informed response, and is usually counter-productive.

                1. re: MakingSense

                  "Just as an aside do you go out of your way to pick an inane debate on every thread you post in?"

                  I'll take the diatribe above as a yes. Apparently you came to the conclusion that swine flue is not virulent. The Mexican government is either un-willing or incapable of providing factual details about he initial cases involving death. You may also want to take a moment to read your own link as the CDC has clearly stated that human-human contraction is possible (IE; it can be airborne). I seriously doubt they are as ill-informed as you suggest.

                  In either event IMO people will indeed stop purchasing pork as well as produce etc. from Mexico out of fear. Whether that is rational or not is another topic. This will indeed impact pork prices.

                  1. re: Fritter

                    At this point, the public is unaware of the extent of data available to the CDC, only that they are doing their job and being cautious about releasing material until it can be confirmed. They have announced that they have sent CDC staff to work with Mexican authorities and there is no reason to accuse the Mexican government of being obstructive or incompetent.

                    I have come to no independent conclusion (I'm not a scientist and have no special access to data and testing) other than that I should be cautious as I am during flu season as this appears to be a nasty virus. Other than that, facts are facts, and I'm not going to panic based on rumors and speculation.

                    I predicted at the beginning of this thread that there would be an effect on the retail price of pork products because of the swine flu scare.
                    John E O has already posted that the commodity market in pork futures reacted negatively today as prices fell the limit allowed by the market to no one's surprise.
                    This was driven by the fears that the responsible actions of the CDC should prevent, if people don't react to rumors and speculation. It is likely that they will however.

        2. re: Fritter

          The virus survives in the respiratory tract, and dies pretty fast on surfaces. Mexican produce should not be a problem. Mexican produce is more problematic for e coli and samonella, which is why you should always clean all produce well before consuming. OTOH I bet some supermarkets will go out of their way not to stock Mexican produce for now. They don't need to, but they likely will.

        3. I couldn't believe what I was reading when I saw this post... Fail!


          1. To quote from information on The Today Show web site:

            "Human-to-human infections do occur similar to the way the human seasonal flu virus is transmitted — through coughing, sneezing and coming in contact with a person or object with the virus.

            People cannot become infected by eating pork or pork products. Cooking pork to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit kills the virus as well as other bacteria, notes the CDC."

            Here's the link:

              1. re: JohnE O

                Yeah, the predictable money line from that article:
                "“Consumer fears are going to drive the market today,” said Christian Mayer, a market adviser at Northstar Commodity Investments LLC in Minneapolis. "

                You can't catch it from well-cooked pork, but people are going to hear what they want to hear and the media seems to be driving fears....

              2. The World health organization has just increased the alert level from phase 3 to phase 4. This will likely have an immediate impact on pork futures when the market opens tomorrow.



                1. If there's legitimate fear, wouldn't it be fear that herds of swine are harboring the virus which easily spreads to humans. And thus the swine herd gets the same treatment the chicken flocks get when avian flu breaks out in Canton? That possibility could drive futures prices down considerably.

                  13 Replies
                  1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                    That's an interesting observation however in this case the suspected problem is that flies which reproduce in pig poo are the culprits not the physical pigs. The latest I saw is that the alleged source is a filthy polluted area being contaminated by a farm owned by none other than Smithfield. Gotta love it. Big first world corporations operating in countries with little to no regulation or enforcement for huge profits. Can I get some local "organic" greens to go with that please?
                    BTW "H1N1 virus" is a strain swine flue.

                    1. re: Fritter

                      Do you have any reliable sources for "flies on poop" being the source of the virus or the links to Smithfield?
                      The Senate held hearing yesterday and Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health made no mention of any of that. Neither did any other witnesses, the CDC, or Homeland Security.
                      Seems that would be headline news if it were true.

                      1. re: MakingSense

                        Swine flue consists of more strains than H1N1 irrespective of how our government wants to spin it. The core of the problem is mutation.
                        The Mexican official is as close as we are going to get to an actual "witness" and he was indeed referring to this outbreak.
                        Lets remember that we are talking about pork prices here and the impact on food. Not absolutes or proof positive answers. The story above has had an impact. Smithfield stock was off again today.
                        The WHO has raised the level again to level 5 (human-human spread in at least two countries) and we now have more states with confirmed cases as well as the first US death from the virus today.
                        At this juncture I'm far more concerned with every ones safety than pork prices or politics.



                        1. re: MakingSense

                          It is headline news in Mexico;

                          "A municipal health official stated that preliminary investigations indicated that the disease vector was a type of fly that reproduces in pig waste and that the outbreak was linked to the pig farms"
                          (farm owned by Smithfield subsidiary Granjas Carroll)



                          1. re: Fritter

                            "Mexico's top government epidemiologist said Wednesday that it is "highly improbable" that a farm in the Mexican state of Veracruz operated by Smithfield Foods Inc. is responsible for the nation's swine-flu outbreak.

                            Miguel Ángel Lezana, the government's chief epidemiologist, said in an interview that pigs at the farm are from North America, while the genetic material in the virus is from Europe and Asia."

                            See entire story http://online.wsj.com/article/SB12410...

                            "two children in California got sick in late March, several days before the first two known Mexico cases in early April."

                            entire story http://online.wsj.com/article/SB12411...

                              1. re: billieboy

                                Please note that this article says that "environmentalists argue..." They have been opposing NAFTA, plants like the one in La Gloria, and companies like Smithfield for some time. They are also using this virus to get publicity for their cause.
                                On a certain level, you can't blame them because this type of media relations works.

                                However, the article makes apparent errors of fact.
                                While poorly run facilities like the one at La Gloria are certainly health hazards, it appears to have been ruled out by the scientists tracking down the origin of the current pandemic.
                                The first known case was in California two weeks before the one in Mexico. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB12411... CDC and WHO continue to work on the timeline as they seek the source of the virus.
                                The virus is from a pig genetically different from those in the La Gloria plant. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB12410... They are continuing to collect samples for testing.
                                Neither the environmentalists making these statements, nor the local health officials, have the epidemiological or scientific data to substantiate their claims.

                                This is a developing story.
                                I am not willing to jump to the conclusion that there in no link at all to LaGloria, but it's wrong to jump to the opposite conclusion.
                                That's why we have PAHO, WHO, CDC and other groups.
                                We should get the facts, not traffic in speculation to advance political goals. Lives are at stake.

                                1. re: MakingSense

                                  I agree for the most part. There are many people both in the US and in Canada who are strongly against NAFTA and will jump at anything to promote their cause. I just thought the article might be interesting reading for those following this issue.

                                  1. re: MakingSense

                                    "The first known case was in California two weeks before the one in Mexico"

                                    That's not what that article said if you read the entire piece.
                                    That article you put up by the WSJ is about as over top in sensationalism as it gets. Big news flash at the top about the disease starting in CA (late March) and then halfway through the article they totally contradict them selves and state the initial cases were likely in Mexico in mid-March. The CDC states they tested cases from Mexico as early as February.
                                    If you are really desperate to blame the US then read the interview with the CDC's chief virologist from yesterday.
                                    Granjas Carroll has not been ruled out at this point as the source of the out break.


                        2. re: Chuckles the Clone

                          Just read that Egypt is whacking all piggies (300,000) in a preemptive measure.

                          1. re: Fritter

                            Which seems pretty silly to me because only the INITIAL transmission is from an animal. Once the virus gets into people then it spreads like any other regular flu, through coughing and sneezing and aerosolising the virus particles. You can't possibly catch swine flu from eating pork - it's not a prion.

                            And if people are going to stop buying pork I haven't seen the evidence of it in the grocery fliers yet - pork picnic roasts and country spareribs are both on sale this weekend, and I'm planning to buy my share and theirs too!

                            1. re: Kajikit

                              Yeah, and the ancillary story has christian farmers rioting against the muslim government that ordered the cull. So who knows what level of politics is involved.

                              But your second point, pork on sale, that's the bad thing. Prices drop when demand drops.

                              Maybe it's not such a bad idea to reset our porking meters? That whole bacon thing has been getting pretty out of hand.

                            2. re: Fritter

                              The pigs are at a higher risk of catching the virus from humans than the other way around.

                          2. Now there's a move by some to change the name from "swine" flu because it is hurting prices and for other reasons. Israel has rejected the name due to the prohibition on eating pork and is calling it "Mexico flu."
                            At a news briefing, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack took pains to repeatedly refer to the flu as the "H1N1 virus."

                            For U.S. pork producers the swine flu name has hurt, forcing government officials into the position of stressing that American pork is safe to eat and that other countries should not ban imports.
                            Pork, soybean and corn prices have fallen in the last two days, "and if this continues, obviously you have significant potential, which is why it's important to get this right," Vilsack said.

                            1 Reply
                            1. Now it's even affecting beloved children's stories:
                              (Content warning: language)