COVID-19 outbreak leading to pigs becoming compost, not food


The COVID-19 outbreak has severely hurt the food supply chain, and one glaring sign is thousands of pigs are rotting on compost piles as grocers run out of meat.

Outbreaks at slaughterhouses have led to the larges pig culling effort the U.S. has ever seen, Bloomberg reports. CoBank estimates 7 million animals may have to be destroyed this quarter, which equals roughly a billion pounds of meat lost to consumers.

Some farms in Minnesota are reportedly using chippers to grind up carcasses to be spread for compost.

All of that waste is hitting farmers hard, and those farmers are hoping slaughterhouses can get back up and running before their animals get too heavy. Many farmers have already cut their losses and culled their herds.

“In the agriculture industry, what you prepare for is an animal disease. The thought is never that there’s not going to be a market,” said Michael Crusan, a spokesman at the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. As many as 2,000 hogs will be composted a day and laid out in windrows in Nobles County. “We have lots of pig carcasses that we have to effectively compost on the landscape.”

America’s pork supply chain is designed as “just-in-time manufacturing” as mature hogs are sent from barns directly to the slaughterhouse while another group of new pigs takes their place within a few days.

The slowdown has left younger pigs with nowhere to go as farmers initially hung on to mature animals for longer. Once a pig reaches 330 pounds they are too big for slaughterhouse equipment.