World Pork Expo took place last week in Des Moines, Iowa. With the recent outbreak of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDV), there are still unanswered questions about the disease. "AgDay" National Reporter Tyne Morgan spoke to the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) during the expo to talk about this new virus and discover the scope. The pork industry and health experts remain on alert, as it appears to be spreading. The real threat, however, isn’t food safety; it’s a production problem.
"Last I heard this morning, I think we're up to 10 states maybe 11 states, somewhere around 65 to 70 herds, and now we’re not sure if we’re continuing to have new herds, or moving it from herd to herd," says Liz Wagstrom, chief veterinarian for NPPC.
Wagstrom says PEDVC isn’t new worldwide, as it was first discovered in England during the 1970’s. It’s just now been introduced in the U.S., meaning new territory for the pork industry and various government agencies to cover.
"We are looking at where this disease came from, where it’s moving to, there’s no reporting of it," she says.
Wagstrom says it’s an ongoing investigation to discover how or what introduced PED into the country’s herds. In fact, the National Pork Board just announced this week it’s investing $450,000 in research funds to further investigate and help find answers.
"We’d love to be able to get it out of here and go back to not having PEDV, but it’s not as devastating as some other disease can be," she says.
Even though questions surround the impact this could have on world trade, Wagstrom stresses this is not a food safety issue. And she says there are not any barriers in place yet.
"A lot of our most valued trading partners already have the disease," says Wagstrom. "So, as well as many of the other countries that are competitors of ours in the export market, are already PED positive."
Opening new trade doors, despite outbreaks like PEDV, is an ongoing effort for the pork industry. They say pork is safe and see opportunities for growing export markets.
"We export to over 100 countries, says Howard Hill, NPPC President-elect. "I think with the free trade agreements we have in place, with the trans-Pacific partnership we’re working on, we have the potential to export more pork. We can import ribs, for example, because we can’t produce enough ribs. But we can export the things the American consumer doesn’t necessarily value, and it raises the overall value of that carcass."