Pig Flu in China Prompts Welfare Improvement in US

Opportunities for US producers to export pork have skyrocketed recently following a massive outbreak of African swine fever in China, responsible for killing up to half the country’s 400 million pigs. However, China—along with all European Union countries and Russia—won’t accept meat from pigs treated with a drug called ractopamine. Ractopamine, which is commonly used in pork production in the United States and Canada, is a feed additive administered to promote leaner meat. The drug has adverse effects on animal health and welfare—particularly in high doses—including hoof problems and an increase in the likelihood of pigs becoming injured or fatigued during transport and slaughter. Looking to take advantage of the disaster unfolding in China, US meat production giants Tyson Foods and JBS USA have announced they are ending the use of ractopamine throughout their supply chains. Adding these names to the list of pork producers that already shun the feed additive will result in 78 percent of the US pig population being ractopamine free, according to agricultural economists.

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