Top 10 Pork Industry Issues of 2015

December 31, 2015 10:37 AM

By Angela Bowman

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

Charles Dickens’ famous phrase goes far beyond “A Tale of Two Cities.” It also easily describes the ups and downs seen this year by the pork industry. From tragic deaths and barn fires to progress in understanding and defeating diseases such as Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv), it’s been a true roller coaster for everyone working in the industry.

We’ve rounded up the top 10 hottest issues of the year as decided by you, our readers. Relive, remember and recall truly the best and worst of 2015:

  1. Chipotle’s rise and fall: Chipotle claims it raises the food bar by serving food made with non-GMO ingredients (sort of) and meat from livestock raised without antibiotics (when it’s convenient). The company’s anti-GMO marketing campaign landed it in legal hot water this summer, and though carnitas returned to the menu after a kerfuffle about animal welfare, even that announcement isn’t without its drama. An outbreak of several foodborne illnesses, including E. coli and norovirus, pummeled Chipotle’s stocks and made its consumers question whether it’s safe to go back.  At least Chipotle’s founder and CEO is attempting to fix the PR nightmare, unlike one group pinning the outbreaks on corporate sabotage from the likes of Monsanto (for a laugh, click here to read it). Karma can be a GMO-loving beast, which explains why Chipotle took the top spot of the year’s hottest issues.
  2. The year of barn fires: From January to December, more than 18,000 piglets, sows and hogs have been killed in barn fires.  The fires impacted small operations (500 piglets in Indiana) to the large facilities (4,000 pigs at a Brenneman Pork facility in Iowa). Two of these fires were in Canada, including one fire where a blizzard crippled fire crews. Causes of the fires ranged from heat lamps to aging facilities. Workers were also injured in fires reported in Michigan and Iowa, which leads us to…
  3. Remembering those we lost: In May, a horrific barn fire at a Minnesota nursery operation took the lives of two workers -- 50-year-old Sharla Drew and 32-year-old Kristy Giesler. The pair were pressure washing inside the barn with the fire ignited. Families were left to mourn and remember two amazing women.  Over the summer, tragedy struck again as manure pit fumes killed four men in two separate incidents. In December, Dr. Mark Engle, who dedicated more than 35 years to the pork industry, died suddenly.
  4. PEDv, PRRS and other pig disease updates: The industry held its collective breath this spring, encouraged that the winter of 2014-2015 proved to be much better than the winter of 2013-2014 in the battle against PEDv. We learned more about PEDv than ever before as researchers identified a third strain of the disease early in the year, and studies found the best methods for inactivating the disease in trailers. The disease was also found in Georgia, igniting concerns of spreading the disease at non-terminal youth shows. But PEDv wasn’t the only disease on producers’ minds. Seneca Valley Virus reared its ugly head in the Midwest, and researchers pinpointed a virus that caused mysterious tremors in piglets dating back centuries. A team of researchers spanning two universities joined experts from a genetics company to develop what could be the first pigs resistant to Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) virus. Meanwhile overseas, African Swine Fever (ASF) continues to plague Eastern Europe; if ASF made its way to American hog herds, the consequences would be severe.


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