Could we cope if key pig abattoirs close?

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Background: Loss of US slaughter capacity

The US pig industry has hit the headlines recently. Significant outbreaks of COVID-19 amongst abattoir staff led a number of key pork processors to close, some for weeks at a time. At one point, the processing industry had reportedly lost about 40% of its capacity. With pigs unable to go to slaughter on time, some producers have been forced to euthanize pigs for which they have insufficient space to keep humanely and no market.

While almost all abattoirs are now said to be running to some extent, capacity is still reduced due to staff sickness and distancing measures. It will likely take several months for the supply chain to get back to normal operations.

The US industry is poorly equipped to cope with any reduction in slaughter capacity. Weekly slaughter is typically close to maximum capacity throughout the year, meaning it is difficult to make compensatory adjustments if something goes wrong.

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