Will Ham Prices Make Consumers Think Twice?

02:30PM Nov 21, 2019
Ham with Rosemary, Oranges, and Olives-0
( National Pork Board and the Pork Checkoff )

As the holidays approach, will consumers planning to serve up a Thanksgiving or Christmas ham think twice due to price? 

Ham prices are rising to levels not seen since 2014, when porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) was impacting the U.S. swine industry, Bloomberg reports.

African swine fever (ASF) is to blame this year as this deadly virus of pigs – not people – continues to devastate the hog herd in China, the world’s largest pork producer and pork consumer. The disease poses no food safety risk, but the diminished pork availability is causing prices to skyrocket.

In addition to Thanksgiving and Christmas in the U.S., celebrations around the globe such as Las Posadas in Mexico, Boxing Day in Canada and Lunar New Year in China, often feature ham as a key staple.
American meat producers are shipping record numbers of whole hog carcasses to China, Bloomberg reports.

Anne Hurtado, a Chicago-based buyer at Amigos Meat & Poultry, put it into perspective: that’s two hams per hog gone from domestic supplies, Bloomberg reports.

In addition, China recently reopened its market to Canada, which is now shipping hams overseas instead of sending them to U.S. processors.

Wholesale ham prices have almost doubled this year to 91.53 cents a pound as of Nov. 15, USDA data shows. On Wednesday, the price climbed to 93.86 cents a pound. Bloomberg says the record set in 2014 was $1.4368, or about 57% higher than current levels.

Despite tariff barriers, China is still buying up U.S. pork. Pork export sales to China totaled 5,200 metric tonnes for the week ending Nov. 14. 

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