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US pork industry struggled but found its footing during Covid-19 crisis

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By Karen McMahon April 1, 2021, Farm Journal’s Pork, photo credit: National Pork Board and the Pork Checkoff

The pork industry entered one of its darkest periods in spring 2020 when COVID-19 forced the shutdown of several pork packing plants. Paul Yeske, DVM, Swine Vet Center in St. Peter, Minn., helped hog producers in the area work through the closures.

“Unfortunately, we were in the middle of the first plants that ended up closing,” Yeske told Pig Health Today. “The biggest concern was that we didn’t know when the plants would open again, and we didn’t know [at] what capacity.

“As more things started to happen, the plants learned how to manage it more,” he continued. “I think that helped further down the road for people who were involved later to be less impacted.”

Wheels Came Off

During the turmoil, the pork industry realized its efficient pork-producing and processing system had no room for errors.

“I think we learned just how good a system we had on a just-in-time delivery,” Yeske explained. “Producers and packers had been incentivized every step along the way to make the system more efficient and to have no slack in it.

“All of a sudden we couldn’t operate it, and then the wheels came off the wagon pretty fast.”
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