Virus breaking the piggy bank
You can expect to see higher prices at the meat market when it comes to pork.
A mysterious virus from China has swept through 27 states killing millions of piglets.
As of April 2, there have been 93 confirmed cases of the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, PEDv, in the state.
Michigan is one of the top fifteen pig producers in the country, packing more than two million a year.
In pigs three weeks of age and younger, PEDv can lead to 100 percent mortality. Farmers are taking extra precautions to limit its spread.
â??It's been a nightmare for a lot of pig farmers,â?? said Pat Albright, owner of Albright Swine Farms. â??In a very small pig, that dehydrates them and causes death. There is no cure. For a period of time, three to four weeks, you lose most or all of your baby pigs that are born.â??
Albright's farm in Coldwater, Michigan has evaded the disease so far. He said that doesn't eliminate the stress.
â??We went to bed every night thinking about it, woke up every morning thinking about it, worried that it's going to hit,â?? Albright said.
Wiping out the pig population is having a direct effect at the meat counter.
â??Right now we're experiencing some of the highest prices we've had in the industry,â?? said Mark Wilson, owner of Maxbauerâ??s Meat Market in Traverse City. â??What they're doing with the law of supply and demand is trying to raise the price to control the pork. Because if they left the prices the same way, with summer coming and all the sausage we're going to make, it would really seriously affect the amount of pork that would be available.â??
Wilson said he knows where his pork comes from, and regularly checks in to make sure operations are running smoothly.
â??It affects my profitability. It affects how much families have to pay. So it's my job to help navigate that for people so they can trust their butcher. I'm in contact with them because I care,â?? said Wilson.
Come October, November, and December, pork prices are expected to rise again.
â??The pigs they had to destroy because of this disease, so it wouldn't spread rampant across the country, are not there now. They can't just magically make pigs appear. They have to grow them. So people right now are working on increasing the pork supply,â?? Wilson explained.
Higher prices may not stop pork fans from forking over more money.
â??People are really excited to grill. Because pork still represents a good value, even with high prices, we're still going to sell pork,â?? said Wilson. â??When it comes to bacon, people want it. They want bacon.â??
â??I always come in for this bacon jerky, it's great,â?? said Trevor Kustiak of Traverse City. â??I love it, who doesn't?â??
Senator Debbie Stabenow released this statement regarding the outbreak: "This devastating virus has killed millions of pigs across the country and is a serious threat to pork production in Michigan. Now, consumers are beginning to see pork prices rise at the grocery store. I am calling for additional funding for research and monitoring to combat this disease, and will continue working with USDA to stop its spread."
The disease spreads through manure, which in the winter is easily tracked around with slush and snow.
â??It only takes a thimble full of this virus to affect a thousand pigs. Itâ??s devastating,â?? said Albright.
Farmers are increasing biosecurity measures by limiting traffic around their farms and making sure delivery trucks and equipment are clean.
At Albrightâ??s farm, workers spray sanitizer on their shoes to make sure they're not spreading the disease.
PEDv only affects pigs, which means humans are not at risk. There are no food safety issues surrounding the disease.