Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Pigs and the Earthquake in Sichuan

To follow up on the previous post, pigs also died in the hundreds of thousands in the massive earthquake that struck Sichuan province in China on May 12th. According to an article entitled "Economic Tremors of Chinese Disaster" by Leo Lewis in the Times (UK) Online (here), about 1 in 10 pigs in China is produced in Sichuan, making it the nation's biggest producer of pigs. He notes that an estimated 800,000 pigs have died as a result of the quake, but that such a loss only represents less than 1% of the province's pork production. 

There may be some effect on pork prices, which have doubled in China over the past year already. According to a great overview on the NBC World News Blog by researcher Ed Flanagan (here), about 65% of the 110 pounds of meat the average Chinese eat each year is pork, which has made the pork price increases--tied to an outbreak of PRRS ("blue ear disease"), underproduction as a result of low prices in 2006, poor weather, the use of feedstuffs in ethanol production, and the greater demand for meat as a result of growing incomes--quite burdensome. As it turns out, supply can't meet demand, even in a country that has half a billion pigs. 

Today's image accompanied an L.A. Times article (here) by Don Lee called "Fallout from China's Quake Could Include Inflation," which is also worth a read. According to the article, Liu Feng, a salesman at a pork-processor located about 130 miles from the epicenter of the quake, noted that "we cannot purchase pigs" due to damage to the region's infrastructure. Apparently the Sichuan Gaojin Food Co. normally bought 1,000 hogs per day, but as Feng complained, "Today we raised the price twice and the most we got was 200 pigs."

Labels: ,

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Tornado Hits Hog Farm in Oklahoma

By now probably everyone who has a television has seen the footage of the massive tornado that ripped through Oklahoma on Saturday, destroying three barns at a hog farm near the town of Lacey. If you missed the story, you can read the AP version here. If you are in to weather porn, check the raw video footage here

I was skeptical of the claim on CNN last night that none of the animals were injured or killed in this twister (no humans were hurt--they took shelter in time in the farm's windowless office). There's still no solid evidence about what happened to all the pigs in this natural disaster, but there's a good article here in the Enid [Oklahoma] News and Eagle that mentions the risk of starvation or dehydration of the sows and piglets in the farrowing operation at the Seaboard Foods hog farm. It would certainly be ironic if the farrowing units condemned by animal rights advocates turned out to help save the animals in this instance, as the article implies. 

The photo to the left of a sow and her piglets at the destroyed barn comes from the AP and was shot by Enid News and Eagle photographer Bonnie Vculek. Sadly, here is another photo (here)  that clearly shows that some of the sows didn't make it. While the damage has been roughly quantified in the millions of dollars, I'll be surprised if we actually hear about the animals lost. We'll see, I suppose. 

Labels: ,

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Hog Genius on National Geographic's "Wild"

The National Geographic Channel has produced an installment of their series Wild called "Hog Genius." I'm not sure when it will next air, or even if it has appeared yet, but you can find some great photos (including the one to the left of pigs walking through the snow) and a couple of video clips here on the Wild website. 

One clip shows a video game-based experiment in porcine intelligence at Penn State. In this experiment, pigs need to use a joystick to move a ball into an area on the screen for a food treat. They do this quite well, even as the area shrinks. The other clip demonstrates the problem-solving and performance skills of Vietnamese Pot-Bellied Pigs. It features a 10 month old pig at Top Hogs in Denver and Nelly from Valentine's Performing Pigs. If I get better information about a forthcoming air date I'll let you know. It's certainly worth a look on the web, however.

Labels: , ,

Friday, May 16, 2008

FDR on the Proper Use of Pigs

At the blog Lawyers, Guns, and Money the other day the "Presidential Statement of the Day" came from Franklin Roosevelt in a speech to farmers in Washington, D.C. on May 14th, 1935. As part of his response to the concern that food needed for relief may have been destroyed wastefully, he noted:
The crocodile tears shed by the professional mourners of an old and obsolete order over the slaughter of little pigs and over other measures to reduce surplus agricultural inventories deceive very few thinking people in this country, and least of all the farmers themselves.

I have always supposed, ever since I was able to play around, that the acknowledged destiny of a pig is sausage, or ham, or bacon, or pork. It was in those forms--as sausage, ham, bacon, or pork--that millions of pigs were consumed by vast numbers of needy people who otherwise would have had to do without them.
I'll have to dig a bit to see what this specific issue was about. I'd note here that the timing of the LGM post happily coincides with the passing of the Farm Bill by the Senate yesterday. While I'll eventually post separately about what this iteration of the farm bill means for America's pork producers and pigs, for now, the NPPC (National Pork Producer's Council) seems pleased, describing the bill as "favorable" to the industry. You can find their press release here.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Drunken Pig Monument in Ukraine

In a story that almost seems too good to be true, a monument to a drunken pig is supposedly to be unveiled in the town of Komsomolsk in central Ukraine. It will portray a pig lying on its belly with its snout in a trough and will be located adjacent to a cafe. According to the sculptor, Oleg Ryabo, "This monument symbolizes those people who make pigs of themselves by drinking far too much." Thanks to Dave from the more-consistently posting Axis of Evel Knievel for the reference to the Russian News and Information Agency (here).

Labels: , ,