Swine flu sinks pork sales

    A Pennsylvania pork producers says her business is suffering.

    The new flu virus has waylaid more than three thousand people in the U.S., but pork producers say it’s the media coverage of the so-called swine flu that’s making them ill.
    (Photo: Flickr/jen_maiser)

    Listen:

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    The recession and high feed costs had dampened pork profits for more than a year, but in early April strong Easter-ham sales and the upcoming grilling season lifted the hopes of hog farmers.

    Warner: And then about April 24th there was wide coverage of this flu outbreak and we saw prices drop, I think in the first week about $7 a head, so as an industry pork producers were losing about $7.2 million a day.

    Dave Warner is a spokesman for the National Pork Producers Council. You can not get the H1N1 virus from eating pork, but Warner says the “swine flu” label confused consumers. He says media outlets flashed pig pictures along with their health coverage, and that made the problem worse.

    Berks County hog farmer Connie Manbeck says she’s struggling. She needs to sell her pork for 55 cents per pound to break even. This week prices dropped to 38 cents a pound.

    Manbeck says her business is suffering.

    Manbeck: Hectic, chaotic, nerve wracking, I’m sitting here constantly figuring how I’m going to pay my bills now.

    Manbeck and her husband raise 250 sows on their farm in Womelsdorf, Berks County. Manbeck sells her pork to packers around the state, and expects to lose three thousand dollars on this week’s shipment.

    Manbeck: People associated that picture on TV with pigs, ‘Oh my god look it, they are showing pigs that must mean it has something to do with pigs.’

    The National Pork Board says U.S. pork producers have lost more than $63 million in revenue since April 24th. A spokeswoman says farmers are getting about $21 less per animal — this week — compared to the period before April 24th.

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