Farmer ends thousands of pig pregnancies as demand for meat drops during pandemic

Farmer ends thousands of pig pregnancies as demand for meat drops during pandemic
© Getty Images

A farmer in Iowa says he had to ordered his staff to terminate 7,500 pig pregnancies as a number of farmers across the country struggle to sell livestock amid a drop in demand for meat during the coronavirus pandemic, Reuters reports.

The farmer, Al Van Beek, told the international news agency that the move to terminate the pregnancies was a difficult decision for him.

“We have nowhere to go with the pigs,” he told the outlet. “What are we going to do?”


As more farmers run out of places to sell their livestock and crops, Van Beek told Reuters he had to pay more than four times the cost it usually takes for him to have pigs transported for slaughter.

The Iowa farmer said he used to have the animals taken to a plant run by Smithfield Foods in Sioux Falls, S.D. But after the pork producer closed that plant, he said he had to have to animals transported to another plant further away in Illinois. 

Another Iowa farmer in Iowa, Dean Meyer, also told Reuters his farm has had to euthanize some of their smallest piglets and others in order to adjust to the current needs of the market.

“Packers are backed up every day, more and more,” he said.

Around the country, more farmers have also reported having to euthanize their livestock or plow over their crops as a number of food processing plants and restaurants have closed or seen a dramatic drop in business amid the pandemic.

A pair of dairy farmers from Wisconsin told the news agency that they even received death threats after they had to throw out milk.


“They say, ‘How dare you throw away food when so many people are hungry?’” one farmer told Reuters. “They don’t know how farming works. This makes me sick, too.”

Over the weekend, a Tyson Foods board chairman John Tyson said in a full-page ad published in the New York Times that “the food supply chain is breaking” during the pandemic. He also said that “millions of animals — chickens, pigs and cattle — will be depopulated because of the closure of our processing facilities.”

According to The Wall Street Journal, usually half a million pigs are slaughtered daily in the U.S. for consumption. However, as some slaughterhouses have temporarily closed amid the pandemic, that figure has lowered to roughly 105,000 per day.

In order to adjust to the changing pork industry amid the pandemic, the Journal reports that some hog farmers have even mulled creating what the paper referred to as “temporary euthanasia sites” for their livestock.