Mysterious virus is causing pork prices to soar

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Updated: Wed, 16 Apr 2014 09:33:54 CST

It's killing piglets at an alarming rate and wiping out entire farms in less than 3 days.

"When you have a decline of the number of piglets that are available you just have that much less meat," said Ron Seymour, Agricultural Educator at UNL extension.

The mysterious disease is causing pork prices to skyrocket across the country. In February a pound of bacon averaged 5 dollars and 46 cents. Up 13 percent from last year, now perhaps even higher.

"There's maybe a 20-30% price appreciation," said Mark McHargue, Owner of Big Valley Pork.

Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea or the PED Virus is believed to have originated in China. It has killed an estimated 5 million piglets since it hit the United States in May of 2013.

The PED virus causes diarrhea in pigs. A symptom that's uncomfortable for adults, but can be deadly for piglets.

"It's kind of like if your child gets sick when they're really little it's much more critical," said Mark.

Mark McHargue, Owner of Big Valley Pork says the disease has already infected many farms across Nebraska.

"When we have a truck come to pick up our hogs that are ready for slaughter, that truck has been at a packing plant. We know that all of our packing plants have PEDV and they have for quite a while," said Mark.

Mark says PEDV could even be picked up at a convenience store.

"So a pig farmer maybe gets done doing chores, goes in to get a morning coffee, doesn't change his shoes."

But Nebraska farmers like Mark have been taking extra precautions to keep PEDV out of their pens.

"We disinfect their shoes, sometimes we'll have them put different clothing on and it really protects our animals from people bringing something on to our facility."

The contagious virus is not transmissible to humans and is not a threat to food safety. The USDA has already invested millions of dollars into finding a vaccine.