Pork production in the United States will surpass U.S. beef production in 2015, says Bob Young, chief economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF). If that prediction is realized, it will be the first time U.S. farmers will produce more pork than beef since the 1950s.
U.S. cattle producers have been trimming down their numbers since the droughts of 2011 and 2012 hit rangelands for grazing and also pushed up feed costs. And as cattle prices increased, producers had a good reason to sell rather than keep them as breeding animals, according to Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Commodity Marketing Director Spencer Neale.
The U.S. pork industry has also had to deal with high feed prices in recent years, and also dealt with herd losses from porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus, which can have up to a 100 percent mortality rate in piglets. But with two PED virus vaccines now approved by the USDA and more industry vigilance to keep PED virus at bay, that problem is subsiding and pig numbers are beginning to rebound.
Neale added that it also takes cattle producers longer to replenish their herds than it does pig producers, because cattle have longer gestation periods than pigs.