The Pork Crisis

Talk about clouds on the horizon!
I was going to post this earlier but I didn’t want to spoil everyone’s Thanksgiving.   I can wait no longer.  Perhaps you should sit down.  I was reading the South China Morning Post and saw an article that made my blood run cold.  Here it is — restaurants in China are  in survival mode as pork prices soar.  By soar I mean from around 20 yuan/kg in the Spring to over 50 yuan/kg in November.

You may not care about restaurants in China.  Frankly, I don’t.  But friends, we  — you and, more important, I –have a Problem with a capital P and that stands for Pig.  The world — including the United States and, again, me in particular — may be facing a pork shortage. It’s time for us to fatten up our strategic pork reserve.  Successful Farming has been highlighting the issue since March 2019.

farming mar

As the cover indicates (right center), the source of the trouble is African Swine Fever (ASF).  ASF went hog wild in the summer of 2018 in China, which is around the top of my Needs-to-Clean-up-its-Act list for a lot of reasons these days. This year, ASF has escaped the borders of China, as so many of its citizens would like to do, and is spreading to other countries.

(Have you noticed how China manages to pin problems on others?  The AFS plague is a China problem.  Why blame Africa?  Why was it the Hong Kong Flu — as if China weren’t oppressive enough to Hong Kong — rather than the Beijing Flu?)

At any rate, China itself is in big trouble.  Pork comprises 80 percent of the protein in the Chinese diet.  Think of your food budget doubling.  ASF is highly contagious and deadly (for the pigs), and has been spreading rapidly in China since the summer of 2018.  Now it has spread throughout Southeast Asia.  The effect in China is profound.   They recently dropped tariffs on US pork, and you probably noticed in the indispensable Pork Insider section of the October issue of Successful Farming that ASF is recurring in previously “cleaned” farms, and that the Chinese pork inventory is way down.  Indeed,

farming oct

nine million fewer pigs are being slaughtered a month in China.  The Chinese pig inventory is down well over 100 million pigs, including millions of fecund sows: the Chinese are eating their seed corn, so to speak.  The ASF toll worldwide is in the hundreds of millions of pigs.

The Chinese government, preoccupied as it is with bullying Hong Kong and the NBA, has proved woefully ineffectual in dealing with their internal pork problem.

So far, we’re safe here in the US, but the disease is so contagious that anything — anything  at all — that has touched an infected pig could be a carrier.  Is there a mechanism for testing everything that comes into the US for ASF?  No.  And now it portends the failure of restaurants.  That hits us where we live — or at least hits the Chinese where they live.  That’s okay, but with the spread of ASF, God forbid, but It could happen here, too.

You may scoff at the prospect, lulled into complacency by the fact that the US has a stockpile of bacon – 48,000,000 pounds.  That sounds like a lot.  The average American, however, eats 18 pounds of bacon each year.  (I don’t think I eat that much, but then my main life skill is self-deception.)  Anyway, at 18 pounds per person, our strategic bacon reserve would last maybe four months.  To make matters worse, China now owns Smithfield Foods, and might pack up all their pigs and head home at any moment — although that would be one disgusting trip.

What to do?  I’m sure you’ll agree that cutting back on pork consumption is a complete non-starter, and I’m pretty sure the DC government would frown on me raising pigs in my back yard.  So would the pigs.   And my neighbors,  The only thing I can think of is to subsidize people to raise a whole bunch of pigs, but then that’s all we ever think of here in Washington.   Please send your ideas.

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And while you’re at it, click “follow” on our front page to receive blog posts in your email box.  Or bookmark us and check in from time to time.  If you’re planning a trip, you can “Search” the name of the city, state, or country for good restaurants (in Europe, usually close to sites, like the Louvre or the Van Gogh Museum, that you’ll want to visit in any event).  Comments, questions, and suggestions of places to eat or stories to cover are very welcome.  And check out our Instagram page, johntannerbbq.

 

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